One Dead After Reservoir Ice Gives Way Under Skaters

William Smallfield, 72, died at Calif.'s Stampede Reservoir on Saturday
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 9, 2022 1:34 PM CST
Elderly Skater Dies After Plunging Through Ice
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Vera Chitaeva)

Eight people headed out for an afternoon of ice skating over the weekend on a frozen reservoir in Northern California. Six of them ended up falling through the ice, and one elderly man is now dead, reports NBC News. Per a series of releases from the Sierra County Sheriff's Office, authorities received a 911 call Saturday afternoon that the ice had broken on Stampede Reservoir, about 45 minutes north of Lake Tahoe, and swallowed multiple people.

The two who didn't fall in went to work trying to pull the other six skaters to safety, the sheriff's office noted. However, one person who was further away than the rest couldn't be located; he "went under the water and visual contact with this person was lost," per a release. Authorities searched by air and also sent a dive team into the reservoir on Saturday, to no avail, the sheriff's office noted. On late Sunday morning, however, the man's body was recovered from the reservoir, and he was IDed by authorities on Monday as 72-year-old William Smallfield. One other skater was hospitalized with a dislocated shoulder, treated, and released.

On Monday, the US Forest Service, which oversees the property on which the reservoir is located, put out an advisory to "recreate with caution," recommending people in the Lake Tahoe area not head out onto frozen lakes, ponds, and reservoirs due to "daily temperature changes" that could make such an endeavor "hazardous." A local fire official tells the Reno Gazette Journal that reservoirs are especially susceptible to such dangerous conditions, as the water levels keep fluctuating, causing multiple layers of ice to form that become suspended when the reservoir level drops. In lakes, water levels are more consistent, leading to more solid ice. (More reservoirs stories.)

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