MADISON (WKOW)-- Wednesday night's drowning was the first this year in Dane county, but the situation itself is something divers have dealt with many times in the past.
Authorities have identified the UW-Madison student as 20-year-old Richard De La Cruz of Wauwatosa. University officials say he recently transferred from Marquette University.
Divers who participated in the recover efforts Wednesday night were thankful for the witnesses and swimmers who aided their recovery.
"Wednesday's dive experience from our perspective as a team is as textbook as it gets," Dane County Dive Team member David Hopperdietzel says.
The Dane County Dive Team keep their skills sharp by conducting ten training sessions each year. Divers say three of their sessions take place at a nearby quarry, but the rest are all conducted in the Madison lakes.
Divers are glad they only have to use this training a few times each year. They typically don't get to the scene of a possible drowning until several minutes after the person went under. During most recovery efforts they have very little information to go off of, but on Wednesday afternoon several witnesses narrowed down their search area to a 30 feet spot in the lake.
"We were able to narrow down that search area very, very significantly and had it not been for the help of these individuals, we wouldn't have had the quick recovery that we did," Hopperdietzel says.
The recovery was similar to another drowning that happened just over a year ago near UW campus. A student drowned and his body was recovered a few minutes later. Another drowning in Madison happened the previous Summer in August of 2011. The body of a 37-year-old man was pulled from Lake Mendota. Officials say he was drinking with a few friends near North Henry Street. Investigators say alcohol was a major factor in his death.
"I wish I could say that what happened Wednesday night was an isolated incident, but that is the third incident that I can recall where an individual who was a weak swimmer went out swimming and subsequently drowned from shore," Dane County Marine and Trail Enforcement Deputy Mica Weber says.
Weber drove the search boat that carried divers and equipment during Wednesday's recovery effort. He used sonar technology on the boat to create a network of buoys that helped to narrow down the search area even further.
Weber and other deputies in Dane County Marine and Trail Enforcement frequently come across students who run into trouble on sailboats, canoes or simply swimming in the water.
"When the students come back there is more of that to deal with. We do spend a little more time over there," Weber says.
Divers say it doesn't take much for things to get out of hand in the water. That's why they suggest swimming in groups where a lifeguard is on duty. They also urge swimmers to avoid swimming in windy weather, because it can make the swim back to shore much more difficult. Their last piece of advice is to always know your limits. Swimmers with very little experience should avoid deep areas in the lake.
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