By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
Steven Quijno was visiting Crestline with his family for the day from the San Fernando Valley on Sunday, March 15. He was driving down San Moritz Drive next to the lake when his daughter saw a car floating on the water in front of Leisure Shores, just after 6 p.m. He quickly stopped and saw the car seemed to be sinking. The car had entered the water from the beach area in front of the parking lot for the Leisure Shores Senior Center.
Quijno waded out into the water as the car was sinking and floating away from the shore. He spoke to the unidentified man while he heroically attempted to help get him out of the car. He was unsuccessful.
“I guess I got there too late to save him,” said Quijno. “The man said he must have fallen asleep at the wheel, and then rolled up the window.”
The wind was strongly blowing fog over the lake, and air temperatures were in the 30s. According to a County Fire Department Swift Water Rescue Team diver from Lake Arrowhead Fire Station 91, the water was 26 degrees and the man was getting numb.
Jeff Olbermeyer, who has a vacation home nearby, called 911 to get help at 6:07 p.m. The fire trucks, Search and Rescue team, ambulance, CHP and sheriff’s units arrived quickly at 6:13 p.m. They called for the Swift Water Rescue units from County Fire Station 91 in Lake Arrowhead at 6:19 p.m., as the car was fully submerged by this time.
According to Capt. Tim Goforth of Station 91, they used their search and rescue rapid deployment water rescue inflatable boat. “It’s portable, inflates quickly and can quickly be put into the water.”
After speaking with the witnesses to find out approximately where the car had floated to, they used a grid-searching method and soon located the car and placed a buoy at its location. One witness claimed it was a white sedan and had its headlights and rear lights on.
Meanwhile, the sheriff’s dive team was suiting up to rescue the man who was stuck in the car, which was now about 10 feet below the surface of the water. The diver was taken by the search and rescue team into the lake to where the buoy had been placed near the car, which was submerged about 30 yards offshore just north of the beach at Leisure Shores.
A diver quickly entered the chilly water and opened the unlocked door of the car and pulled the driver out of the car, bringing him to the surface where he was quickly placed into the rescue boat, which was pulled back to shore by firefighters. The man was carefully loaded onto a waiting ambulance gurney and raced to the awaiting ambulance by fire personnel, where paramedics immediately began working on reviving him. Next, the apparent drowning victim was transported to a local hospital, said Corp. Goines, the Twin Peaks sheriff’s station watch commander.
Quijno was distraught. He and his family had waited, despite his wearing wet clothes, hoping the man could be revived on the spot after being rescued from the car.
“I feel bad I couldn’t save him. I just couldn’t; my arms and legs were freezing. I was told the water was 26 degrees. I’ve been sitting here praying for him; we prayed as a family for him. I am grateful we were here for him, however.”
Goforth said the coldness of the water can put a body during a drowning incident into a state of suspension. People have been known to be fully revived and live a healthy life after they are revived, having been submerged for up to 90 minutes, he said. “The cold water gives us extra time during drowning incidents. When a person drowns in such cold water, until the hospital has warmed up the body and then attempts to revive them, their condition is never known.”
Later, Don’s Towing of Running Springs came to pull the car out of the lake. Divers had to swim out to the car and attach cables to it so the tow truck could winch it out of the lake. By 9:30 p.m., despite the fog, wind and cold, the car was out of the water, on the flatbed tow truck and taken away.
The deceased driver was identified as 84-year-old Franklin Lee Dauster of Bullhead City.
Anyone with additional information is asked to call the Twin Peaks sheriff’s station at (909) 336-0600.