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Sonoma Valley coach missing, presumed dead, in boating accident

  • Former Sonoma Valley High School wrestling coast Deets Winslow watches his team at Healdsburg High in 2009. (Crista Jeremiason/The Press Democrat)

Roger “Deets” Winslow, a popular mentor and coach who led the Sonoma Valley High School wrestling team for more than two decades, is missing and presumed dead after he was ejected from a speedboat on Lake Berryessa on Saturday.

Winslow, 49, of Glen Ellen a father of three, was described by friends and family as positive and friendly and who gladly took on a role as a mentor to local kids.

“He was an amazing person who would do anything to help people,” said his brother Travis Winslow, also of Glen Ellen. “He absolutely loved helping kids.”

Winslow was piloting his performance boat along a section of Lake Berryessa called The Narrows with two passengers on board when something caused the boat to rock suddenly in one direction and jerk back in another. The force threw him over the side into the deep water, according to the Napa County Sheriff’s Office. When his passengers circled around to pick him up, they only found signs that he may have been injured.

“From what they told us, they found some indication that he had made contact with the propeller,” said sheriff’s Lt. Pete Berg. “There was evidence of significant injury.”

Winslow, who was described by family members as an experienced boater, was still listed as missing Monday. But after two days of searching for him in water that reaches depths of 170 feet, authorities presumed he had drowned, Berg said.

“I don’t know what you call it,” his mother-in-law, Patricia Sorensen, said. “(It’s) a tragic, freakish accident.”

Winslow, a psychiatric technician at Sonoma Developmental Center, coached the Sonoma Valley high wrestling team for more than 20 years before stepping down recently. He succeeded his father, also named Roger, who led the team for 10 years.

He left Sonoma Valley with a record of 328-74-2, led them to nine league titles and six top-10 finishes at the North Coast Section Championships. His family said Winslow had hoped to coach on the middle school level, perhaps for his younger son Tyler’s school Altimira Middle School.

Winslow lived in Glen Ellen but he and his wife, Heidi, owned a boathouse on the lake, his family said. They have three children, a daughter Kayla, 14, and sons, Tyler, 13, and Jordan, 22, whom he coached at Sonoma Valley. Family said he would go out to the lake whenever he wasn’t coaching or, more often lately, attending one of his kid’s sporting events.


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