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Homicide unlikely in case of Tahoe diver missing since 1994

August 9, 2011 |  3:41 pm

Scuba diver missing 17 years found in Lake Tahoe
A diver who disappeared 17 years ago in Lake Tahoe does not appear to be the victim of foul play, El Dorado County authorities said Tuesday.

Scuba diver Donald Christopher Windecker disappeared 17 years ago in the lake's deep, frigid water –- but his body was only recently discovered, on July 23 about 265 feet below the surface by a group of divers using mixed gas that allowed them to descend much deeper than conventional scuba divers.

News reports at the time of his disappearance described Windecker as a 44-year-old former city planner from Reno, who set out for a dive on July 10, 1994. Accompanied by a friend, Windecker planned to swim to a depth of about 100 feet.

Trouble occurred toward the end of the dive however, when the pair began to ascend. Windecker reportedly suffered difficulty with his equipment and began to sink. His companion tried to help, but began running out of air and was forced to surface.

Windecker's body was well-preserved, clad in a wetsuit and buckled into a weight belt and air tank. The scuba gear bore a certification from 1994, officials of the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department said. Just beyond the ledge where his body was discovered, the lake plunges to a depth of 1,645 feet.

El Dorado County Sheriff's Lt. Bryan Golmitz said there were no signs of trauma, but no cause of death has been determined.

"We're not investigating this as a homicide," he said.

Because of the temperature and depth, Windecker's body remained in "amazing physical condition," Sgt. Jim Byers said.

"We'll be able to do a thorough autopsy. He may have had a heart attack or a stroke or maybe just ran out of air. Hopefully we'll determine what happened."


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-- Bob Pool

Photo: Lake Tahoe. Credit: Tony Hicks / Contra Costa Times