PR 2023

Deputies Risk Personal Safety/Lives to Rescue Victims of Capsized Canoe on Horseshoe Lake

Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Benjamin Stolz and Deputy Eric Reyes responded to a report of two victims in the frigid water of Horseshoe Lake.   The victims had fallen into the icy water after their canoe capsized and were suffering from early stages of hypothermia.  Soaking wet and still in most of their patrol gear, Deputy Stolz and Deputy Reyes commandeered a small boat and kayak from shore and rescued the victims.  The victims were provided medical treatment for hypothermia, transported to the hospital for additional care, and expected to recover.   


On April 11, 2024, at approximately 3:40 pm, Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputies were advised of two males who had fallen into the brutally cold waters of Horseshoe Lake after capsizing their canoe.  The caller advised that the victims were yelling for help and very cold.   

Deputy Benjamin Stolz and Deputy Eric Reyes arrived within 10 minutes and began to assess the emergency.  The victims, estimated to be in their 60s, were sitting on a log approximately 150-200 yards away from shore and did not have life jackets on.  

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Marine and Emergency Operations Unit (EOT-Dive Team members) were advised and began responding to assist with the rescue.

The victims said they had life jackets in the canoe but didn’t have them on and couldn’t grab them quickly enough when it capsized.  They told Deputies they were barely holding on and didn’t think they could make it much longer.  The lake water was estimated to be in the 40s, and both victims had been in the frigid water for approximately 50 minutes, causing hypothermia symptoms to occur.  

With Marine and EOT assistance still responding and fearing for the victims’ lives, Deputy Stolz and Deputy Reyes knew they needed to act immediately to save them.  The Deputies located a small aluminum boat (approximately 8’-10’) and a tiny plastic sit-on-top kayak on the shore nearby.  They quickly retrieved a pair of bolt cutters and some rope from a patrol car, cut the chain that secured the boat, and tied a line to the tiny kayak.

They removed their ballistic vests, knowing they could end up in the cold water themselves.  They left them and one of their radios with a neighbor who could advise dispatchers if they did end up in the water.  Still weighed down in the rest of their patrol gear and with no life jackets available, the Deputies began crossing the water in the unsteady boat with the kayak in tow.   

Deputies reached the victims and observed they were shivering violently and uncontrollably.  They learned both victims had lost the use of their legs due to the extreme cold, and one had limited use of his arm.  Knowing time was of the essence, they used the kayak as a floatation device and successfully towed the victims back to shore.  Awaiting Spokane County Fire Districts 5, 9, and 10 Firefighters and AMR Medics quickly provided medical treatment for hypothermia.

The victims were transported to the hospital for additional care and are expected to make a full recovery.  

Sheriff Nowels said, “I have no doubt the selfless and heroic actions of Deputy Stolz and Deputy Reyez saved the victims’ lives.  Both Deputies realized this was an extremely dangerous situation that demanded immediate action, and they risked their own safety to save two men in desperate need.  I am extremely proud of their actions and thankful all four are safe.” 


Note: Our waterways remain extremely cold and can present a potentially deadly threat to life within minutes due to hypothermia.  In mere minutes of ending up in 40-50 degree water, a person can experience uncontrollable shivering, loss of dexterity/use of extremities, slurred speech, and disorientation, all potential life-threatening warning signs of hypothermia.  
We highly recommend that people wear their life jackets when enjoying our waterways, especially when using smaller boats/canoes that can easily and unexpectedly capsize. 

This Spokane County Sheriff Office news article "Deputies Risk Personal Safety/Lives to Rescue Victims of Capsized Canoe on Horseshoe Lake" was originally found on