For Immediate Release
PR #:1900057
Date Issued:Jul 12, 2019 - 12:18pm

Sheriff Balaam praises Good Samaritans and Marine 9 crew for efforts to save the life of a near drowning victim at Lake Tahoe

CONTACT:Bob Harmon
Washoe County Sheriff's Office
Office 775-785-6235
Cell 775-722-5517

Washoe County Sheriff Darin Balaam is praising the extraordinary efforts of several Good Samaritans and Sheriff’s Office deputies who worked together to help save the life of a near drowning victim at Thunderbird Beach in Lake Tahoe last Friday.

“A life was on the line and people stepped up,” Sheriff Balaam said.

At approximately 1:30 p.m. on Friday, July 5, 2019, deputies aboard Marine 9 were informed of a drowning that had just occurred on the small beach just north of the historic Thunderbird Lodge.

Marine 9 arrived in less than two minutes and observed a woman, later identified as Erin Dohlman of Des Moines, Iowa, administering CPR to a male adult laying on the beach.

According to witnesses, the victim had been swimming offshore when he suddenly began to struggle and disappeared under the water. Several people on the beach swam out to bring the victim to shore.  

Dohlman was on a boat with friends when she noticed the commotion. A recent graduate of the Des Moines University Physician Assistant Program, Dohlman went to shore to see if she could help. An off-duty firefighter from California had already begun life saving measures on the victim and Dohlman offered to relieve him.

Another bystander, Freddy Matias, also arrived and began to assist Dohlman with lifesaving efforts.

“Matias is a firefighter from CalFire’s Napa Valley station in St. Helena who was off-duty and enjoying a day at the lake,” Sheriff Balaam said. “Like Dohlman, he happened to be the right person, with the right skills, in the right place, at the right time.”

Immediately after Marine 9 arrived, Deputy Heidi Pickard and Deputy Randy Hill both jumped from the boat to the beach to assist. Deputy Pickard brought the boat’s CPR rescue mask and Deputy Hill brought an AED.

Deputies observed that the victim was not conscious or breathing. Deputy Hill immediately applied the AED to the victim while Deputy Pickard administered rescue breaths using the CPR mask. Dohlman and Deputy Hill continued to administer chest compressions. Matias remained and continued to assist with lifesaving measures.

After two rounds of CPR, the victim regained a slight pulse and began to breathe. Even though the victim was still unconscious, his pulse continued to strengthen.

As the victim slowly regained consciousness, deputies communicated with North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District personnel and it was decided to use Marine 9 to move the victim to the Thunderbird Lodge boat dock for further treatment.

With the help of Matias and two lifeguards from Sand Harbor, deputies placed the victim on the boat and transported him to waiting NLTFPD medical personnel at Thunderbird Lodge.

After doing an assessment of the victim at the Thunderbird Lodge boat dock, medical personnel asked Marine 9 to transport the victim to Sand Harbor in order to expedite transfer to Careflight.

The victim was brought to Sand Harbor accompanied by NLTFD paramedics, a Sand Harbor lifeguard, deputies and Matias. The victim was transferred to Careflight medical personnel and taken to a Reno hospital for treatment.

According to family, the victim is doing well and expected to recover and they appreciate the efforts of everyone involved in this rescue.   

“I cannot think of a better example of our deputy’s commitment to the safety of those we serve and the importance of our partnership with the public,” Sheriff Balaam said. “I cannot express loudly enough how much we appreciate the way Ms. Dohlman, Mr. Matias, and the other bystanders got involved so willingly, and without hesitation, went to the aid of a stranger. Deputies Pickard and Hill, along with the rest of the Marine 9 crew, medics, lifeguards, and the dispatch operators who helped coordinate it all, did a phenomenally professional job.

“We should all be proud and appreciative of the manner and spirit with which they all came together to save a family from losing a loved one.”

Photo: Members of the Washoe County Sheriff's Office Marine 9 crew who took part in the rescue of a near drowning victim at Lake Tahoe include Deputy Randy Hill (left), civilian boat operator Ron Rosa, and Deputy Heidi Pickard. The incident occured on Friday, July 5. Today Sheriff Darin Balaam praised the lifesaving efforts of the deputies, along with several good samaritans who were in the area and assisted.


The Washoe County Sheriff's Office is dedicated to preserving a safe and secure community with professionalism, respect, integrity and the highest commitment to equality. Sheriff Darin Balaam is the 27th person elected to serve as the Sheriff of Washoe County since the Office was created in 1861. The Washoe County Sheriff's Office strives to ensure public safety by building trust and creating partnerships within the diverse communities in which we serve. We will promote the dignity of all people supported by our words and actions through open communication while fostering an environment of professionalism, integrity and mutual respect.

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