While expressing their deep sorrow, family members, coaches and mentors said they were not surprised that Carlos Diamond Francies died trying to save a friend he thought was drowning.
Francies, 30, a Cordova High School graduate and football player, was at Lake Tahoe on Thursday, enjoying a day off from his job as a Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputy. He, along with his girlfriend, his sister Kayla Richardson and a male friend, had rented paddle boards and kayaks. While standing on her kayak, Richardson fell into the lake. The male friend jumped in after her and got her back into her kayak.
But Francies, who was about 50 yards away from his sister and the friend, got the impression that his friend was in distress because he was struggling to reach his kayak while holding a paddle, according to the South Lake Tahoe Police Department.
Francies jumped into the 15-foot-deep water after his friend, but he soon began struggling. He was rescued by his girlfriend and placed on another Lake Tahoe swimmer’s boat. Francies’ girlfriend, a registered nurse, performed CPR until emergency personnel arrived. He was taken to Barton Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
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According to the Police Department’s report, Francies’ sister was the only one wearing a life jacket.
“I grieve hard,” said Donald Northcross, a former Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy, who has known Francies since he was in sixth grade and joined the OK Program that Northcross started at Rancho Cordova’s Mills Middle School to mentor African American youths.
Family members said it was Northcross’ mentorship that led Francies to become a sheriff’s deputy. Francies had continued to assist with the program, which has gone nationwide, speaking to youths in Oakland.
Northcross said he was not surprised that Francies would put himself in harm’s way to help somebody.
Former Cordova High School football coach Max Miller said Francies, who went by his middle name, Diamond, was a defensive back for the Lancers for two years and returned after he graduated to help Miller coach.
“He was an outstanding young man, a great team player,” Miller said. “I’m not surprised that he jumped in to save someone. The name ‘Diamond’ really fits.”
Family members said Francies played football for a year at Sacramento State and two years at Humboldt State University. After college, he played with the Stockton Lightning of the arenafootball2 league.
Francies’ older sister, Vesha Francies, said her brother had played in Guns and Hoses football games, charity competitions between law enforcement officers and firefighters. She said he also was a coach at Del Campo High School.
He had been living in Rancho Cordova but had recently bought a home in Natomas, she said.
Vesha Francies described her brother as ambitious and a hard worker. As a sheriff’s deputy, she said, he had worked patrol, at the jail and was a member of the sheriff’s emergency response team.
“Deputy Carlos Francies died doing what he was sworn to do: putting himself in harm’s way to protect the lives of others,” said Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston.
Northcross said Francies was always appreciative and made the most of the opportunities he was given.
Shortly after Francies joined the Sheriff’s Office four years ago and had a steady salary, he called Northcross and said he wanted to buy him a suit.
“He insisted,” Northcross said. “He just wanted me to have something nice. He was so proud watching me get fitted for that suit.”
In a society where it sometimes seems like nobody cares about anybody else, Northcross said, Francies exemplified that “there is no greater love that a man can have than to lay down his life for a friend.”
Francies is survived by his parents Paris and Beverly Richardson, brother Coye Francies and sisters Vesha Francies, Taleka Francies and Kayla Richardson.
Services are pending.