Lake Mendocino drowning linked to water level

A 19-year-old Ukiah man drowned while swimming in Lake Mendocino this week, prompting a Sheriff's Department warning about a hazard caused by the reservoir's low water level.

Tyler Fields went into the water with three friends on Tuesday at the boat ramp near Coyote Dam, intent on swimming to an island exposed by the low water, Sheriff's Lt. Greg Van Patten said.

Fields tired and turned back toward shore, but never made it, while his friends reached the island. A kayaker who heard screams paddled to the area and found a reusable grocery bag containing four unopened cans of beer in the water, Van Patten said.

Fields was reported missing about 3:30 p.m. and his body was recovered by a sheriff's dive team nearly three hours later about 135 feet from shore in 10 feet of water.

His death is considered accidental pending a final determination based on blood test results, Van Patten said.

In 2009, when islands were exposed after a dry winter there were five drownings in the reservoir and warning signs were posted, the lieutenant said, noting that such islands may be farther from shore than they appear.

Last year, when the lake was full, no drownings occurred, he said.


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