Crime - Sacto 911

Men use ice chest, seat cushion to survive after boat sinks in Lake Tahoe

Four men were rescued from Lake Tahoe near midnight Sunday, following a boating mishap that left them clinging to an ice chest and seat cushion to stay afloat, according to Tahoe Fire District officials.

Eric Guevin, fire marshal and public information officer for the district, said the men are from the San Francisco area and in their late 20s.

“They’re lucky to be alive,” Guevin said. “We have had a lot of deaths (on the lake) from cold water shock.”

The men had rented a 20-foot boat from the Ski Run Marina in South Lake Tahoe, Guevin said. They told authorities their boat sank after retaining water.

“They missed their ‘due back’ time,” Guevin said. Marina staff launched a search and were unable to find them. The U.S. Coast Guard, not knowing the vessel was considered missing, stopped the men around 8:30 p.m. and instructed them to turn on the boat’s navigation lights, Guevin said.

Around 9:30 p.m., the marina called for assistance from the Coast Guard. Guevin said that’s about the time the men say their boat started sinking.

Several individuals called into the fire station at 11 p.m., saying they heard screaming on the water. “We were able to triangulate and get our boat on the water,” Guevin said.

The first man was found near Zephyr Cove within 15 minutes, after having left the group to try to make it to land. The remaining three were found three miles offshore. Two were clutching a red and white ice chest; another used a seat cushion from the boat for survival, Guevin said.

“Good news is, they were all recovered,” Guevin said. Water temperatures in Lake Tahoe reach about 68 degrees on the surface this time of year. Lower down, temperatures can be in the 40s and 50s, Guevin said.

The men were checked by paramedics and taken to the fire station for hot showers, coffee and tea. No one was injured, Guevin said, adding that the men wish to remain anonymous.

Normally the marina boats are stocked with eight life vests, Guevin said. “It’s a fairly new boat and in good condition,” he said. “We aren’t sure why it went down.”

He said the Coast Guard will head an investigation.

Ski Run Marina representatives were not available for comment.

Jessica Hice: 916-321-1550, @JesserPea

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