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Hypothermia believed to play role in Lake Tapps drowning death
A 24-year-old Tennessee man drowned Saturday afternoon in Lake Tapps.
It is the second drowning death this year at the lake.
The man has been identified by the Pierce County Medical Examiner's office as Israel A. Godkin of Spring Hill, Tenn.
According to witnesses, Godkin was swimming with family members Saturday, at Lake Tapps North Park when he went under the water.
Just before 3 p.m., East Pierce Fire and Rescue crews were dispatched to a possible drowning call on Lake Tapps. Firefighters, who were already at the park hosting the annual SplashTacular, a safety demonstration for swimmers and boaters, quickly responded.
According to a press release from East Pierce, witnesses were able to give a pretty good report of where they last saw the swimmer. East Pierce divers, already on scene for the SplashTacular event, were able to quickly locate the victim.
The firefighters immediately began CPR, but the man was pronounced dead at the scene.
"From the time of the call to the time the divers pulled him from the lake and began CPR was about eight minutes," East Pierce Assistant Chief James Jaques said. "It was about as fast as a response as possible."
Dive teams the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office were called to the scene. Crews from the Valley Regional Fire Authority also responded, but cancelled before they arrived.
An autopsy has not yet been performed, but fire officials suspect hypothermia may have played a role.
According to a witness, the man was swimming with family members when he said he had leg cramps and was calling for help when he went down.
"Although the cause of death is being investigated, there is a good chance that the cold water in the lake played a key role, causing hypothermia" said East Pierce Public Information Officer Dina Sutherland.
Hypothermia leads to the rapid loss of body heat.
"Cold water removes heat from the body 25 times faster than cold air. As the body’s temperature drops, blood is shunted away from the arms and legs to protect the core and vital organs, making swimming or even treading water difficult. Within minutes, a person can become disoriented and lose consciousness," she said.
Sutherland warns swimmers to be cautious in the glacier-fed waters of Lake Tapps, even on warm days, and to always wear a life jacket in or near water. East Pierce offers loaner life jackets at the headquarters station, 18421 Old Buckley Highway, in Bonney Lake. There is no cost to borrow the jackets for the day.
"We just ask that you return them to the station for other people to borrow," Sutherland said.
This was the second drowning at the county park on the north end of Lake Tapps this year. Peter Talaga, 31, of Kent, drowned May 15 after entering the water to retrieve a plastic ball. Hypothermia was also suspected in Talaga's death.