IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Ice skater, 72, dies after group of 6 plunges into frozen California reservoir

Local officials urged people to stay off the ice after the death of William Smallfield.
Image: Stampede Reservoir Recovery Operation
Rescue crews stand at the Stampede Reservoir in Downieville, Calif., on Sunday.Tyson Elison / Sierra County Sheriff's Office via AP

A 72-year-old man died over the weekend after a group of skaters fell through the ice on a Northern California reservoir, authorities said.

The body of William Smallfield was recovered from the Stampede Reservoir, about 45 minutes north of Lake Tahoe, on Sunday, the Sierra County Sheriff's Office said in a news release Monday.

Smallfield, of Truckee, was one of eight people skating on the reservoir Saturday afternoon when the ice cracked and six of them plunged into the water, the sheriff's office said.

Two skaters helped the others out of the water, but Smallfield was far from the group and was seen going under the water, the release said.

An air search and dive team was unable to find Smallfield on Saturday, authorities said. Search and rescue workers and divers from two neighboring counties recovered his body Sunday, the sheriff's office said.

Smallfield was identified Monday. Another ice skater was airlifted to a local hospital with a dislocated shoulder and released Saturday, the sheriff's office said.

Although such incidents are rare in the region, according to the Reno Journal-Gazette, local officials pleaded with people not to set foot on the region's frozen water bodies after Smallfield's death.

“The message here is pretty simple — stay off the ice, period," a spokesman for a fire agency in nearby Washoe County, Nevada, told the Journal-Gazette.

"Our weather fluctuates too much and is too inconsistent to ever deem for safe conditions on ponds or lakes,” the spokesman, Adam Mayberry, told the newspaper. “Despite overnight cold temperatures, never walk on ice or a pond here in Northern Nevada.”

The U.S. Forest Service, which controls the national forest where Stampede Reservoir is located, urged people in a news release Monday to "recreate with caution" around the forest's frozen lakes and reservoirs.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the agency would take additional steps to keep people from visiting the lake. A spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.