By AMY LINDBLOM
A freak accident last night on New Melones Reservoir killed an 18-year-old Pleasanton man riding a personal watercraft in the dark.
The man died about 8:45 p.m., when he became entangled in a tow rope pulled behind a friend's waterski boat and was choked, said Tuolumne County Sheriff's Sgt. Scott Johnson.
Moments before the accident, a wakeboarder who was being towed by the boat had fallen and the rope still remained in the water, Johnson said.
While an autopsy is pending, a preliminary exam indicates the man suffered a crushed trachea and larynx and possibly a broken neck, said Tuolumne County Deputy Coroner Jim Scruggs. There were significant rope burns around his neck, Scruggs added.
Johnson said the man, whose name has not yet been released at the request of his family, was riding too close to the boat. California boating regulations say personal watercraft riders must be at least 100 feet away from any boat.
Pleasanton police notified the man's mother last night, and she spoke with Johnson about the accident at 2 a.m. today.
Johnson said the accident happened when the man rose up over a wake on his watercraft, then nosed under the water, or "porpoised." Either on the way into or out of the water, the rope wrapped around his neck. Witnesses on the boat estimated the man was traveling between 25 and 30 mph.
Friends in the boat pulled the man on board and, while some administered CPR, another friend called 911 from a cell phone and the boat immediately headed toward the Tuttletown launch area, Johnson said.
The boat was met by New Melones rangers who also tried CPR on the dock until paramedics arrived. But because of the man's crushed trachea, no oxygen was getting into the man's lungs. Paramedics cleared an airway but failed to revive the man. He was pronounced dead at the scene.