Man drowns trying to save dogs from partially frozen lake

MEYERS, Calif. -- A missing 39-year-old man was found dead in El Dorado County after deputies believe he tried to rescue his dogs from an icy lake.

In the peak of winter, Lake Baron is a place where people ice skate and ice fish. But in early December it is still too warm for that.

David Schmidt, from South Lake Tahoe, walked his three dogs along the water Thanksgiving morning when most of the lake had frozen over. But experts said the ice was still 2 inches too thin for safe crossing.

“When we got there, we made our way down the lake and we saw the two dogs in the water,” Lake Valley Fire Capt. Perry Quinn told KTXL.

Quinn said the dogs had fallen through the ice. He knew crews had to move fast to bring the pets to safety.

“It’s amazing how resilient the dogs can be,” Quinn told KTXL. “They, potentially, could have been in the water for an hour or more, we’re not sure. They were still alive and paddling when we got there.”

Only after pulling the dogs out rescuers noticed a man’s winter clothing floating in the water.

“That’s when we realized that there was potential that an owner or human might be in the water also,” Quinn explained.

Multiple agencies began searching the lake. It wasn’t until the next day when rescuers located Schmidt’s remains in the water.

Crews believe he drowned trying to save his dogs and help came too late.

“Never be out there alone,” Quinn said. “You know, go near the ice with a partner, someone who can call 911 if there is an accident.”

That way when the accidents do happen, everyone in the family comes home.

“Don’t attempt to self-rescue. Don’t attempt to rescue your dogs on your own,” Quinn said. “We’re more prepared. Don’t enter the water alone.”

Rescuers were able to find Schmidt’s body through an underwater, remote-operated vehicle after he drifted down the lake.

All three dogs were treated at a local veterinarian and are expected to survive.