Boating Accident Ends in Tragedy

Two men were killed and one injured when their boat sank during a fishing trip at Topaz Lake Saturday.  The injured was admitted for hypothermia to Carson Valley Medical Center and later released.

According to the report, the boat began to take on water approximately 150-200 yards from shore and the three men attempted to swim to shore. None of the men were wearing life vests. Scott Wise, 47-year-old Yerington resident, realized quickly that he would not be able to make it to the shore, turned back and held on to the partially submerged boat. He was rescued approximately 30 minutes later. Tragically, 45-year-old Bert Peterson of Sparks and 50-year-old Jesse Gregory, also of Sparks, both drowned when they succumbed to exhaustion and the cold water. 

The body of Peterson was found Saturday evening. Gregory was found in 22 feet of water on Sunday. Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) game wardens coordinated with Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Douglas County Search and Rescue, Washoe County Search and Rescue, and the East Fork Fire Department to recover the bodies. 

“This is tragic news,” said Tyler Turnipseed, Chief Game Warden for NDOW. “Obviously, our thoughts and prayers go out to not only the families of the victims, but to everyone involved. These men were just out there fishing and having a good time, to have it end like this is heartbreaking.” 

When a person is submerged in cold water, they only have a limited time before the cold water will cause a loss of control over hands, arms and legs making it impossible to swim. 

Turnipseed explains that the water at Topaz Lake is currently in the low 40’s, making it nearly impossible for anyone to have made that swim to shore. “The average person would start to lose muscle control within the first few minutes,” he said. “We know it sounds counter intuitive when you can see the shore, but your best chance is always to stay with the boat. Hold on and get at least part of your body out of the cold water and wait for help to come. Your odds of surviving go way up if you stay with the boat.” 

Although children under the age of 13 are the only people legally required to wear a life vest, the Nevada Department of Wildlife strongly suggests that everyone wear one when they head out on the water.  

“Cold water or not, a life vest can make all the difference in a boating accident,” said Turnipseed. “The latest report from the Coast Guard states that 85 percent of drowning victims connected to a boating accident were not wearing a flotation device. You should always wear your life vest when you’re boating, kayaking or paddle boarding. You just never know what could happen out there.” 

The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) protects, conserves, manages and restores wildlife and its habitat for the aesthetic, scientific, educational, recreational, and economic benefits to citizens of Nevada and the United States, and to promote the safety of persons using vessels on the waters of Nevada. Find us on Facebook, Twitter or visit us at www.ndow.org