A five-year-old Riverside boy died following a boating accident in Lake Elsinore last weekend after the craft overturned in rough, windy waters, authorities and a witness said.
The incident – the first boating death this year at the popular recreational lake – unfolded before the eyes of shocked onlookers who watched from shoreline vantage points.
“It was a very rough day for a lot of people here,” Brook Tinling, a recent arrival to the area from Louisiana, said in a telephone interview afterward.
She said the boat carrying the child and two adults had crisscrossed the lake in its high-speed zone when it hit a wave and overturned just before 2 p.m. last Sunday. She said the boat occupants bobbed in the windswept water for some time before rescue efforts were successful.
Luke Nelson was pronounced dead at 2:41 p.m. at Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar, according to the Riverside County Coroner’s Office. The boy was wearing a life jacket at the time of the accident, Riverside County sheriff’s Lt. Dave Fontneau said in a Monday morning telephone interview.
Authorities released the boy’s name as Lucas Garrison, but family members said he was about to be formally adopted by Ken Nelson, who was critically injured in the accident.
“The three of them were on a boat that apparently flipped over somehow and they were all thrown into the water,” said Capt. Fernando Herrera of the county fire department.
Tinling said the accident occurred in the water closest to Crane Lakeside Recreational Vehicle Park, and a resident there called 911 to alert authorities.
The aftermath caused a flurry among onlookers, Tinling said, and some launched personal watercraft and others used a bullhorn to unsuccessfully try to alert the operator of a nearby boat that was towing water skiers.
She said some onlookers questioned afterward whether the boy was wearing a life jacket. The boy’s aunt, Jodie Drysol, said the floatation device was removed during efforts to resuscitate the youth.
She said members of the victims’ friends and family members are planning one or more fundraisers soon to help offset funeral and medical costs and lost wages.
“It’s heart-wrenching,” she said in a Monday afternoon telephone interview.
She said the boat was being operated at a safe speed and neither Ken Nelson nor Ricky Gillmaster, the boy’s uncle, had been drinking prior to the accident.
She said Gillmaster swam to the boy after the boat capsized. He found the boy face-down in the water and was attempting to revive him when a good Samaritan arrived upon a personal watercraft and transported the boy to shore.
The boy did not have a heartbeat when firefighters and paramedics began efforts to revive him, said Sgt. Robert Rose of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
Onlookers watched as rescue personnel attempted to revive the boy, Tinling said.
“It was very intense to watch the whole thing,” she said. “It was a long ordeal.”
Gillmaster then swam to Ken Nelson’s aid, she said. The sheriff’s rescue boat was launched from an area near the Lake Shore Mobile Home Park on Grand Avenue.
Ken Nelson was taken to Inland Valley for treatment. Drysol said he was in critical condition afterward. She said neither adult was wearing a life vest.
Tinling said the high winds had prompted her family to cancel their plans to ride a personal watercraft on the lake before the accident occurred.
“It was extremely windy and the water was really rough,” she said.
Fontneau said the accident is under investigation, and the probe will examine weather conditions at the time.
“It was windy,” he said. “That’s part of our investigation.”
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