Utah Lake may be shallow, but people shouldn't underestimate the danger it poses during inclement weather, Utah County Sheriff Dave Bateman said in the wake of two drowning deaths over the weekend.
A county search and rescue squad pulled the body of Wilford Larsen, 41, from the lake Monday around 8 a.m. after rescuers in a search plane spotted the body. The body of Jason Coleman, 10, was found Sunday afternoon.Larsen, Salt Lake City, and Coleman, Centerville, were reported missing Saturday evening while fishing with Coleman's two brothers and sister in the Lincoln Beach area west of Spanish Fork. The two bodies were found in the same area.
Though Larsen was a good swimmer, Coleman was not, sheriff's officials said. Larsen, who had been dating the Coleman children's mother, Annamarie Coleman, Centerville, had taken the children to the lake for a day of fishing and swimming.
"If this boy would have had a life jacket on, chances are he would be alive today," Bateman said. "Many times people get in a situation beyond their capabilities and experience, and they drown."
Last weekend's drowning deaths are the first in Utah Lake this year. Five Utah County residents drowned in the lake last year.
Four drowned after strong winds capsized their boat near Sandy Beach on the lake's southeast shore. A fifth person drowned while swimming near the Lindon Marina. Strong winds, which hindered relatives from reaching the victim after he began yelling for help, again were a factor.
Utah Lake is 15 feet deep at the most and 8 feet or less in most areas. But because of its shallowness, the lake is easily agitated by wind that can quickly produce swells up to several feet.
Bateman said Larsen and the Coleman youths got into trouble shortly after wind and bad weather whipped the lake into a frenzy about 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Shane Wall, who was fishing in the area, noticed the swimmers were having problems and helped three of them to shore.
Wall, 240 E. Second South, Santaquin, told authorities that by the time he turned back to look for Larsen and Jason Coleman they could not be found.
Bateman praised Wall's efforts. He said the victims apparently drowned after stepping off a rock reef into deep water when they tried returning to shore. He said they were carried "into a hole that's really deep. It's some of the deepest water in the lake."
Bateman said the lake, whose bottom is riddled with holes and springs, can be quite treacherous during bad weather.
"It's only one step and you are gone. Non-swimmers should always wear a life jacket," he said. "I think if people are going to wade, swim or do those kinds of things, they definitely should not do them alone."
Bateman warned Utah Lake enthusiasts to watch for rising winds and not to underestimate the lake's danger.