Update on Topaz Lake death

mcsoOn Friday, March 9, 2012, at approximately 4:00 pm, Mono County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch received a report of a vehicle that had been driven into the water, from the shoreline, at Topaz Lake.

It was reported that several friends were fishing on the shoreline of Topaz Lake when apparently one of the friends got into his vehicle attempting to start the engine. Friends heard a splash and saw the vehicle in the water and floating away from the shore before it completely sank. The driver, identified as Francis McConnell, age 74, of Topaz, was found by divers unrestrained, lifeless and deceased. Mr. McConnell was brought to the surface and transported via boat to the shore.

California Highway Patrol is the lead agency into the investigation of what caused the accident. Final cause of death of Mr. McConnell will be determined by the Mono County Sheriff’s Office upon completion of autopsy and toxicology results.

Prepared and written by: Jennifer Hansen, Public Information Officer


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32 Responses to Update on Topaz Lake death

  1. Big Rick O'Brien March 12, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

    Why in the HELL didn’t anyone on shore do something besides dialing 911 ?
    Nobody wanted to get wet ? The CHP Ag. station is 5 less than 5 minutes away…

    • Wayne Deja March 12, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

      Big Rick…Got to agree with you …but the bigger picture is if the rumors are true about first responders taking 3 HOURS to get to the scene….inexcusable……Sounds as if multiple agencies were there to “take control” after the fact….where were they when the vehicle was sinking?…..Sounds as if the AG station is a stones throw away from where this happened….Chances are,if they did respond quickly,this man still might not have survived….and maybe if by-standers attempted a rescue,one or more might have perished too,like what happened at Convict Lake …but it would have been nice if someone maybe tried a little harder….My condolences go out to Mr.McConnell’s family and friends.

      • Big AL March 14, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

        Again .. ag station lol, not CHP sounds like the rumor mill is cranking on this one too with rumors of 3 hour response time, I think we need to get to the bottom of the the rumors before putting the foot in the mouth.

    • cat March 12, 2012 at 8:39 pm #

      Maybe the were the same age as the victim. Maybe they were scared. Big RIck, I suppose you would have swam out and pulled the car back in!?!?

      You make a great monday night quarterback!!!

      • Rob March 13, 2012 at 11:45 am #

        I thought about the possiblity of someone jumping in. 30ft out, 30ft down would take someone in really good shape that new how to swim. I’m not in good shape, and not a good swimmer, leaving me wondering what I would do.

        You’d have to wait until the car filled up with water before you could open the door, and that’s if it wasn’t locked.

        RIP Francis McConnell

      • Big Rick O'Brien March 13, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

        I would have at least TRIED.

      • Big Rick O'Brien March 13, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

        Monday (MORNING) quarterback…

        • cat March 14, 2012 at 5:25 pm #


          Thanks for the Monday Morning info, I am not much of a football fan.

          The basic first responder courses (police, fire, emt, etc.) teach you not to become part of the problem, you are no good to anyone because now there are two that need saving. If you did try and became part of the problem then chances are you are putting a responders life in danger as well.

          I my mind you are talking s**t about the people who were on the ground and most likely tramatized by this event, his friends and family. A rescue from a sinking car is near impossible, unless a diver is fifteen feet away. I appreaciate your heart, but sometimes screwed up things happen and people can only do so much. These people most likely feel enough guilt without some man “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” them.

          Good day sir!

          • Big Rick O'Brien March 16, 2012 at 2:34 am #

            Cat, all I can say is that when I made my comment (too hastily) I wasn’t thinking about the water temp OR the depth. I also wrongfully assumed that the water would be fairly shallow, that close to shore 10,15 ft. deep,max. The people that were there probably KNEW that the water was deep, because they’ve fished there for years. I jumped the gun… If I had known any of this before I commented, I wouldn’t have my foot in my mouth right now. My being a diver probably made me not look before I lept. I’ll eat my crow well done. Given the circumstances, there was NOTHING anyone could have done.

    • Reality Bites March 13, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

      Big Rick is the resident on everything, especially those things of which he knows nothing.

      • Big Rick O'Brien March 13, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

        If you can’t put your REAL name on your opinions, especially when all they do is badmouth mine, find some other way to amuse yourself, Reality.

    • Big AL March 14, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

      The CHP ag station? I think that is the State department of agriculture station.

  2. meeka March 12, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    you weren’t there dog – you have no clue

  3. Rob March 13, 2012 at 7:23 am #

    Where’s Tim Fesko he has some question to answer?

  4. Tourbillon March 13, 2012 at 7:54 am #

    “The driver… was found lifeless and deceased.”

    Poor guy. Lifeless is bad enough, but deceased to boot?

  5. Home girl March 13, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

    Here is another rumour, well not so much a rumour cause I have heard it myself. Our Board is trying to cut back paramedic services in north county. Their budget is toooooooooo big. The Sheriff’s department budget is toooooooooo big. What do you figure the response time will be after they get done cutting money on lifesaving services. I know i wouldn’t want to wait 3 loooong hours for help if I needed it. We need first responders in EVERY corner of Mono County, maybe some tragedies wont have to happen.

    • Reality Bites March 14, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

      The Paramedic service would remain the same. The change they are talking about is staffing the rigs with one Paramedic and one EMT instead of two Paramedics. This will save money without lowering service.

      The sheriff’s department has a very large geographical area to cover and they don’t work after midnight. They just got rid of a Lieutenant position. They are not over staffed.

  6. sierragrl March 14, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    And just what does the Ag station have to do with anything? The inspectors were going to jump in the lake to save the man? I’ve spent time there, they’re just people who’ve been taught about Ag pests and how to check for them….they’re not trained rescue personnel.

  7. First Responder's Wife March 14, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    We have a scanner at our home. I do NOT have the exact times of the calls, but I heard the entire sequence of calls from the Mono One dispatch center regarding this gentleman’s unfortunate demise.
    The first responders were on scene within five minutes of the first call. I do not remember which unit was first, but Antelope Valley Fire and Mono One medics were there within minutes. Other First Responders were there within minutes, as well…I believe a sheriff’s unit and a CHP as well. From the information which I heard and can release, it sounds like they were able to quickly determine the person was deceased. The dispatcher was trying to get a rescue dive team on scene to access the gentleman.
    I cannot say why there was no rescue dive team immediately available. I know that the Mono One dispatcher tried continually to get a specialized rescue dive team on scene.
    But, FROM WHAT I HEARD, the individual inside the vehicle had already been determined to be deceased, and the call became a recovery call.
    If I had known how crucial and controversial the timing on this call would become, I would have taken copious notes with exact times. But I do know that there were First Responders on scene within minutes. I may have missed some radio transmissions, because our old scanner can only “hear” one transmission at a time. Responders, both law enforcement and fire, medic or other rescue units, often talk over each other during incidents.
    I do not claim to be the final authority on this incident, but in this case, these rumors of three hours for the First Responders to show up are WRONG.


    • Big AL March 14, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

      The recovery call is why the “rumor” made it out to be a 3 hour call response time, that is what reporting might have picked up on instead of the actual “first resopnder’s” on scene time.

    • meeka March 15, 2012 at 8:51 am #

      the first CHP officer WAS THERE quickly (I’m still thinking 45 min. maybe 30) – however he had no way to rescue anyone. He was a nice man, very understanding……. however there wasn’t any way he could have done anything…… It was my mistake of the term “first responder” and I apologize for this. So sorry as I know these men and women did what they could in the roles that were assigned to them. The tragedy and horror of witnessing this horrific event may have caused unwarranted lashing out but, it wont bring back my hero – my friend. I don’t know how or why or when the response team decided that there wasn’t any hope – I don’t understand who makes that decision…… However, the “rescue” didn’t occur for 3 hours…… those that responded were on the shore making no attempts (and again, this may be part of the procedure in 40 degree water – I am NOT an expert) to rescue…… no boats, no divers for 3 hours…….. hope that is a better assessment…….. thank you CHP, fire crews and police officers – you are all heros in your own right and I apologize for any time delays in my traumatized mind that may cause or have caused issues. You all did what your procedure books asked you to do and I take the blame for any misconceptions caused by my words on this forum.

  8. Wayne Deja March 14, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

    First Responder’s Wife, Maybe I’m wrong saying this, but it seems your post brings more questions than answers…so here are some questions..If indeed first responders were there within minutes of the call,why weren’t they prepared to attempt a rescue?..I have heard of instances of people having survived underwater for 20 minutes or more…especially if the water is icy or cold.If the first responders were aware that the vehicle was sinking 30 feet or so offshore,did they have access to a boat or raft to get to him?Like I said on a post to the other story about this incident,a good chance if a rescue was attempted there could have been more victims…but by stating they arrived within 5 minutes of the call, it just sounds wrong saying they were able to determine Mr.McConnell was deceased upon their arrival.I work with an EMT and Fire Captain and plan to talk to him about this when he gets back from a trip just to see what he would have done,or is trained to if they were to get this type of call…and will let all know what he tells me.

    • Reality Bites March 14, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

      Medics, Cops and Firefighters do not carry underwater gear nor are they trained for it. This was one of those low frequency, high intensity events that is difficult and expensive to train and equip for.

    • Big AL March 14, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

      So Wayne, you’re not trained in search and rescue, first responder, any sort of EMS? I totally got what First Responder’s wife said. I think you should have consulted your fire captain friend first. It would be interesting to see what he tells you, then you will know more about what you’re saying.

      • Wayne Deja March 15, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

        Big Al….You want an arguement,you;ll have to look for someone else besides me on this incident….My questions had more to do with why first responders are not equipted to handle such an incident…not if they did their job or not…and why ,in an area such as this,the nearest dive team IF a rescue could be attempted,is 2 or 3 hours away.As far as your pick at me by asking if I am “trained”in search and rescue,I know of some “trained” SAR personnel that I wouldn’t trust to find me if I were lost in my back yard.depends a lot on who is “training” you..a whole different subject there….and not something I want to get started with again As far as my “firefighter friend”,what he had to say about it is almost verbatim with what I said and asked,as far as the questions he had,and answers he gave me.

        • Big AL March 15, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

          Fare enough Wayne, but I wasn’t presenting an argument, I was only saying, it is easy for one to say a lot about these matters or make assumptions when they do not know the facts.
          I liked your post after talking to your friend, I knew that would have given you more info to bring. That is why I said … it would be interesting to hear what he has to say.
          I have been involved in these types of incidents over the years, I know how the best efforts can be reported wrong, and how it feels to respond to something such as this and feel helpless when you want to help, due to lack of equipment or training, and having to wait for what seems like hours even days for more help to arrive. And how it feels to try to do your best and fail, it leaves you feeling like you could have done more, when in fact there was nothing else you could have done.
          Yeah I guess it was a dig, not really meant to provoke an argument.

    • Wayne Deja March 15, 2012 at 9:05 am #

      I talked to the fireman/EMT about this incident,and he said because of how the situation had panned out,would have been VERY difficult to make,or even attempt a rescue….and especially for those that witnessed the vehicle going into the water…too much to deal with without more victims…the cold water,the distance to swim out,having to attempt entrance into the vehicle,removing the victim,and having to deal with a rapidly sinking 2,000 pound car.and then having to swim back to shore with someone that could either have been panicing,or unresponsive.As far as a first responder rescue,seems that would have been doubtful too. What I don’t understand is why that area does not have quicker access to a trained and certified water rescue..given the fact it is an area with a lot of water,a fast moving river,and because of the disaster that happened back in the mid 80’s when the charter bus plunged into the Walker River killing over 20 Santa Monica senior citizens.It’s another disaster waiting to happen without a trained,certified quick-water rescue team closer than 2 or 3 hours away.

  9. Big Al March 15, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    Right on Wayne

  10. meeka November 1, 2012 at 12:24 am #

    8 months later and still no update on cause of death…. thanks mono county

  11. Wayne Deja November 1, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

    meeka…..seems the cause of death could be obvious….

    • meeka January 26, 2013 at 8:04 pm #

      the cause of death was inconclusive wayne……
      inconclusive – wtf does that mean?
      11 months later…..

      • Wayne Deja January 27, 2013 at 10:26 am #

        Meeka…Had to look up the story in order to respond here…What I would ask you is do you live up here in the Owens Valley or Mono County ?…If not,this seems to be a pattern,for the most part, how officials handle a situation such as this…especially in Inyo County…very little info is released to the public….even to the family of a victim in some cases. Inconclusive seems another word for undetermined,which seems to me is kind of a strange thing to be saying…why they can’t just state Mr.McConnell was a victim of a tragic drowning accident is beyond me.


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