Fishlake Tragedy

On Friday October 22, 2021, at 8:06 a.m. Sevier County Search and Rescue and EMTs were dispatched to Fishlake Utah where 36-year-old Christopher Winslow (Cedar City, Utah) was pulled from the 53 degree waters of Fishlake. Christopher had been fishing all night with his 13-year-old son and another friend. At 3:14 AM Christopher had dropped the friend off at the Fishlake Lodge Marina and went back out fishing with his son. Between 5:14 a.m. and 5:21 a.m. the boat Christopher and his son were in capsized. Neither were wearing a life jacket at the time of the accident. Christopher and his son attempted to call 911 but the call was not able to make a good connection and was dropped.  Emergency dispatchers were only able to get a cell tower location, and the call went dead. Dispatchers attempted several times to call the number back without any success. Christopher and his son were holding onto opposite ends of the boat. At some point the son succumbed to the exposure, let go of the boat, and began sinking. Christopher swam down to bring his son back to the surface, but he was unable to.

At approximately 7:30 AM some fisherman on Fishlake had turned their boat motor off to reel in a fish and they could hear someone yelling. They found Christopher holding onto the capsized boat on the East side of Fishlake, approximately 1000 feet from the closest shoreline. They pulled him into their boat and brought him to the shore where immediate lifesaving measure taken. Christopher was suffering from exposure to the cold water. Christopher told them his 13-year-old son was with him. The fishermen had not seen the 13-year-old when they were at the boat. Employees of Fishlake Lodge Resort immediately went back out to where the capsized boat and started searching the area while search and rescue and EMTs were responding.

              As EMTs were taking care of Christopher and then bringing him to the hospital, search and rescue began searching the surface of the lake for the 13-year-old boy. They were not successful in locating him on the surface of the water. There was a debris field of items from the boat on the surface of the water, while following those items they were not able to locate any sign of him. Sevier County Search and rescue divers began calling for more assistance as the depth of lake where the boat and the debris field were over 100 feet deep. At an elevation of 9000 feet above sea level this becomes a dangerous dive. A call from the Sheriff’s Office was made to the Utah DPS Dive team, Utah Fire Marshall’s office, Utah State Parks Rangers, and Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office for assistance. All the agencies provided resources to assist in searching the deeper waters of Fishlake.

              On Saturday October 23 at approximately 8:30 PM they were able to retrieve the body of the 13-year-old boy and bring him to the surface. He was located at a depth of 106 feet. He was then transported to shore where a medical examiner investigator and Sevier County Sheriff’s Office investigators were on scene.

              During the search on Saturday, an immediate family member contacted Sheriff Curtis and provided a cell phone tracking log by screen shot. The family had an app on their phones called “Life 360” to keep track of each other. The family member was able to see the approximate times and locations of where both the father and son’s phones were. The last location on Christopher’s phone was a location at 5:21 AM, the same time as the 911 call that was dropped. This information was relayed to the search teams and the search area was modified to include the area where the phone was pinged at 5:21 a.m. This area was not in the initial search area. The teams on the water continued to search through wind, rain, snow and were able to locate him.

“If it had not been for the family and the app information they provided, we would not have found him as quick as we did. We would have found him eventually, but not near as quickly.” -Sheriff Curtis

“I want to thank all our partners from the Utah DPS dive team, Utah State Parks, Utah Fire Marshall’s office, and the Wasatch County Sheriff’s search and rescue team. They provided resources that we do not have in our county and because of their help we were able to bring this young man home to his family to hopefully provide some comfort in this tragedy. I want to thank the Sevier County Search and Rescue and EMT volunteers for their support and response to this mission. And all the search and rescue teams who reached out to offer help, you truly make difference,” said Sheriff Curtis

The Sevier County Sheriff and Sheriff’s Office offers its sincerest condolences to the Winslow family for their loss.

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Lora Fielding

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