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The boat at the bottom

Gary Lindstrom

It had never happened to me before, and I hope it never happens again. They call it a microburst. I call it a killer.

I was doing my usual stuff at the Sheriff’s Office around 2 p.m. on a Monday in June 1985. Seventeen years ago. The weather forecast was for nice days, cold nights and the chance of scattered afternoon rain in the mountains. For 32 years the forecast was always the same. Scattered afternoon rain. It always rained in the afternoon. You could set your clock by it. Rain at 2. Clear at 4. The sailors on Lake Dillon loved it. You could always catch a breeze around 2 when the weather changed.

I had the small window open in my office in the jail. I had to close the window quickly because the wind started blowing very hard, very quickly.

They call it a microburst. A quick change in the weather before the rain begins. The winds and downdrafts will take on an almost hurricane effect. The reports at the time said the wind was 60 mph.

It was so quick and hard it turned every boat on Lake Dillon upside down.

We had our Sheriff’s boat on the water staffed by Sgt. Al Witt and a deputy. They immediately started rescuing as many people as they could.

In the Blue River inlet, four employees from a Frisco restaurant were enjoying their afternoon off sailing a 22-foot Catalina owned by Ed Turrou. Ed was an attorney in Frisco with Dave Helmer. Ed had connected with a young man who enjoyed sailing. If I remember correctly, the young man was a chef and sailed the Keystone sailboat out of the Dillon Marina.

He was with his wife and a couple of men from the restaurant. His wife was from Sweden. He had met her here and had moved back to her home country for a couple of years and had just returned.

They only had one life jacket.

The boat sank immediately. All four people hung onto each other and the life jacket waiting to be rescued. When no one came, the husband decided to swim to shore to get help.

Shortly after he left, the two men gradually lost strength and went under the water, leaving the woman alone with the life vest. She was able to hang on until help arrived. She and her husband survived, and their two friends drowned.

Their bodies were never found.

Summit County Rescue Group did a land search of the shoreline but never found anything.

Dr. Jerry Peterson from Dillon came out the next day with his underwater fish finder to see if he could find the boat. He thought he located it at more than 100 feet, but it was too deep to recover.

The only trace of the two men was a baseball cap that floated up against the face of the Dillon Dam.

The other day I was looking at the dry bed of the lake and wondering if the boat could be found now that the lake level is down. I could probably show someone where Jerry thought he had seen it. I am sure Jerry would remember also.

The bodies are far beyond ever being recovered. They are the only bodies in the lake to my knowledge. The boat should still be there and is closer to being recovered each day the lake level drops. I think about the boat, the boys and that event in my life often as I drive by the lake. I am sure there are others who have some of the same thoughts and questions. Especially this year.

Gary Lindstrom is a Summit County Commissioner and regular columnist for the Summit Daily News.


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