California Teenager Dies in Lake While Hiking With His Dad

by Emily Morgan

A 19-year-old hiker has died after swimming at Thousand Island Lake in California. Before tragedy struck, the Los Angeles-based teenager was hiking with his dad and others in the Ansel Adams Wilderness when he decided to go for a solo swim around noon on Aug. 10.

After he failed to meet back up with his group eight hours later, they reported him missing to the Madera County Sheriff’s Office.

Hiker’s identity and cause of death remain unknown

“Due to the urgent nature of the incident, a request was placed with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services for a military helicopter to respond,” the Sheriff’s Office said in an official press release.

They added: “Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore accepted the mission and responded to the location for medical assistance.”

Before the search and rescue team left the area, another group of hikers called the Sheriff’s Office to inform them that they had found the man. However, according to the release, he was still alive when they found them and needed immediate medical assistance. Sadly, by the time the helicopter arrived, he had passed away. They took him to the Fresno Yosemite International Airport with his father.

Police have not released an official cause of death, although it’s theorized it could’ve been due to hypothermia.

Local authorities had warned those hiking that, although the heat may heat the valley floor to 100 degrees, it’s deceitful. While you may want a quick dip, swimming in the alpine lake is dangerous as water temps remain freezing.

“At Thousand Island Lake, the overnight lows are in the low 40’s at night, and the lake itself is fed by glaciers from Mount Ritter and Mount Banner,” police said. “Even in the warmer months, the water is extremely cold.”

In a statement, Madera County Sheriff Tyson Pogue also extended his condenses to the victim’s family and friends. “Incidents like this are truly heartbreaking, and some of the hardest calls we conduct as first responders. Thank you to our allied agencies for their swift efforts to assist us with this mission, and helping to provide support to the family.”

Important factors to remember if you choose to swim

Although you want to go for a swim if you’re out hiking, it’s important to be mindful of water temps. This is especially true if the body of water is at a high elevation.

According to Brian McCrum from the United States Coast Guard, anything below 77°F is considered cold and has associated risks. Therefore, the ideal temperature would be in the 77°F to 82°F range.

However, according to Barbara Beyers, the research director of Lifesaving Society, it’s less about a number and more about tolerance and air temperature.

Beyers also added that air and water temperatures correlate, as people typically only go swimming when the temperatures are warm.

“Many people don’t go swimming when it’s cold, they wait until it’s warmer. Be very mindful of the temperature of cold water, especially if you’re boating,” said Beyers in a 2019 interview. “If your body temperature is warmer and the air temperature is warmer, the cold water is not such a shock to your system, taking into account your head isn’t going under.”