Washoe Sheriff praises lifesaving efforts in near-drowning

WCSO Marine 9 Photo: (L-R) Deputy Randy Hill, civilian boat operator Ron Rosa, Deputy Heidi Pickard
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INCLINE VILLAGE, NV (KOLO) - Washoe County Sheriff Darin Balaam is praising the efforts of several Good Samaritans and Sheriff’s deputies who worked together to help save the life of a near-drowning victim at Thunderbird Beach at Lake Tahoe.

“A life was on the line and people stepped up,” Sheriff Balaam said.

About 1:30 p.m. July 5, 2019, deputies aboard Sheriff's boat Marine 9 were told of a possible drowning on the small beach just north of Thunderbird Lodge.

The crew of Marine 9 arrived to find Erin Dohlman of Des Moines, Iowa, administering CPR to a man on the beach. According to witnesses, the victim had been swimming offshore when he began to struggle and disappeared under the water. Several people on the beach swam out to get the victim to shore.

Dohlman says she was on a boat with friends when she noticed the commotion. A recent graduate of the Des Moines University Physician Assistant Program, she went to shore to see if she could help. An off-duty firefighter from California had already begun lifesaving measures and Dohlman offered to relieve him.

Another bystander, Freddy Matias, also arrived and began to assist Dohlman with lifesaving efforts, according to Sheriff Balaam.

“Matias is a firefighter from CalFire’s Napa Valley station in St. Helena who was off-duty and enjoying a day at the lake,” Sheriff Balaam said. “Like Dohlman, he happened to be the right person, with the right skills, in the right place, at the right time.”

As Marine 9 arrived, Deputy Heidi Pickard and Deputy Randy Hill jumped from the boat to the beach to assist. They saw the victim was not conscious or breathing, and Hill applied a defibrillator while Pickard used a CPR mask on the victim. Dohlman and Deputy Hill continued to administer chest compressions; Matias remained and continued to assist with lifesaving measures, according to Balaam.

After two rounds of CPR, the victim regained a slight pulse and began to breathe. Even though he was still unconscious, his pulse continued to strengthen. The crew of Marine 9 moved the victim to the Thunderbird Lodge boat dock for further treatment, with assistance from Matias and two lifeguards from Sand Harbor.

After doing an assessment of the victim at the Thunderbird Lodge boat dock, North Lake Tahoe Fire paramedics asked Marine 9 to transport the victim to Sand Harbor for transfer to Care Flight, which flew the victim to a Reno hospital.

Balaam says according to family, the victim is doing well and expected to recover.

“I cannot think of a better example of our deputy’s commitment to the safety of those we serve and the importance of our partnership with the public,” Sheriff Balaam said. “I cannot express loudly enough how much we appreciate the way Ms. Dohlman, Mr. Matias, and the other bystanders got involved so willingly, and without hesitation, went to the aid of a stranger. Deputies Pickard and Hill, along with the rest of the Marine 9 crew, medics, and lifeguards did a phenomenally professional job.

“We should all be proud and appreciative of the manner and spirit with which they all came together to save a family from losing a loved one.”

Copyright KOLO-TV 2019