Lac La Belle drownings: Safety concerns addressed by officials

Two men drowned in three days on Lac La Belle in Waukesha County, something rescue crews said hasn't happened on this body of water. Police say neither was wearing a life jacket.

On Thursday, July 21, police came to the lake after it was reported a man who went swimming northwest of Islandale went under and did not resurface. On Saturday, the man's body was found in about 32 feet of water, police said. 

A Milwaukee man drowned in Lac La Belle Sunday. Around 3:45 p.m., officials said multiple 911 calls reported someone in distress in the lake. First responders learned a 35-year-old man went under the water but did not resurface. On Sunday evening, the victim was located in approximately 11 feet of water – west of Blackhawk Drive.

Emergency crews at Lac La Belle

"Huge lake, nice water, clean water," said Dylan Thompson. "There’s always a lot of boats on the water."

As Thompson and his friends headed out from shore Monday, they were thinking of the two men who drowned on Lac La Belle just days apart.

"This lake’s usually been pretty safe," said Collin Zimmerman. "Never really been any problems."

Investigators said both drownings happened on the northwest end of the lake. 

"In talking to other members of the department who have served for 20 plus years, they cannot recall a drowning on Lac La Belle," said Brad Bowen, Western Lakes Fire District chief.

Lac La Belle drowning Sunday, July 24

Police are investigating whether alcohol played a role.

In both cases, police said the victims jumped into the lake from rental boats.

"I’m not sure if lifejackets were provided to each individual or if they had their own onboard," said Jake Bolyard, Town of Oconomowoc Police Department.

As Thompson and his friends headed into the center of the lake, they said a life jacket is the one thing they’ll always have on board.

"We always wear lifejackets when we are tubing, out swimming, deep water," said Thompson. "We always have our lifejackets." 

Fire officials said a dozen boats, drones and sonar equipment were used to look for the bodies. For a while Sunday, they even closed the beach and boat docks.

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