Body of missing canoeist found

Published: Feb. 28, 2016 at 2:19 PM PST
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The bodies of both victims from Friday's capsizing incident have been found, according to Truckee PD. Lucas Johnson was found about noon on Sunday, in the northeast corner of the lake near the site of the original capsizing. Joshua Patterson was located during a helicopter search on Saturday around 10:00 am.

The search started out as a rescue effort Friday night with a 9-1-1 call about a capsized canoe on Donner Lake. Witnesses saw the canoe, with two men in it, capsize around 4:45 Friday afternoon.

"On Friday night we searched until dark," said Sgt. Robert Womack of the Truckee Police Department. "The wind came up even stronger than it was when the canoe capsized and we had to pull the boats off the water due to the wind and dangerous water conditions."

The search resumed Saturday morning with more boats and a CHP helicopter.

"We were able to search from the air when there was little or no wind," Womack said. "With good visibility in the water they spotted an object which later turned out to be one of the canoeists."

The two were last seen in the northeast corner of the lake. That's the area boats and dive teams scoured Sunday. The weather continued to be a factor.

"The wind is coming up again; add to that the water temperatures and the depth of the lake," Womack said. "For folks who are divers, when you dive at 6,000 feet, dive times are greatly reduced and certainly being in that cold of water is a factor as well. It's not a recreational free dive, we wear dry suits with specialized equipment."

Water temperatures range from 37 to 39 degrees. The lake at some points is more than 300 feet deep.

"It drops off rather steeply, fairly quickly," Womack said. "We're moving out into deeper water and as we do that we're getting below the diveable depths for our professional divers."

Crews used boats with underwater sonar and remote video capability.The victims were visiting the area from elsewhere in northern California. Neither victim appeared to be wearing a personal flotation device.

Truckee PD Captain Rob Leftwich stated in a press release "Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of Lucas and Joshua." He went on to say "We would like to remind everyone how important flotation devices are. These situation are always extremely tragic and we can only hope to prevent similar incidents in the future."

Truckee PD would like to thank the assisting agencies, Nevada, Placer, and Yuba County Sheriff's Offices, Truckee Fire District, and the California Highway Patrol for their help in searching and recovering the victims.