Leadville Man Drowns in Turquoise Lake
A Turquoise Lake boat trip ended in tragedy Sunday afternoon with the drowning death of 55-year-old Anthony “Tony” Pacheco of Leadville. At approximately 8 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, Pacheco started out with his dog, Buddy, on his flat-bottom fishing vessel from the Abe Lee Fisherman Parking area.
According to his brother Randy Pacheco of Leadville, when Tony had not returned by nightfall, his girlfriend grew concerned and started to call his family “at about 10 p.m.” The family rallied together and headed out to Turquoise Lake, located 7 miles northwest of Leadville to investigate.
The initial 911 call, according to Lisa Burke, Public Information Officer with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, came in at approximately 11 o’clock Saturday night. A Sheriff’s Deputy was dispatched to Turquoise Lake to conduct an initial investigation and made contact with the Pacheco group of about 10 people, who had started searching in the area. After talking with the family and discovering Tony Pacheco’s truck in the parking lot, authorities determined that it was a Search and Rescue situation and notified the Dispatch Center.
Lake County Emergency Manager Mike McHargue reported the call came into his emergency cell phone sometime around midnight Sunday morning. He immediately began making calls to the Lake County Search and Rescue volunteers and a 7-person team was deployed at Turquoise Lake in the early morning hours on Sunday, Oct. 21, setting up a Mobile Command Center with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office at the Tabor Boat Ramp area. They immediately began a shoreline search in the dark.
McHargue also called the Summit County Water Rescue Team to be put on standby. They were eventually called out, especially after some mechanical trouble with one of the Lake County rescue boats left them able to launch only one boat during the initial water search at dawn.
“When it’s your family member who’s missing, you don’t feel like things are happening quickly enough,” stated Randy Pacheco expressing the family’s frustration with the response time from law enforcement and search and rescue.
On the flip side, Pacheco acknowledged the stark reality that Lake County Search and Rescue operates on a limited budget, a volunteer staff and life-saving vehicles that are stored at different emergency stations around the county. All of these factors contribute to response time.
“They were probably doing things as fast as they could, but it just didn’t seem fast enough,” added Randy Pacheco.
Fortunately, the morning light also brought another significant development. Tony’s dog – Buddy – showed up at his truck. It was still parked at Abe Lee, a place the Pacheco Family had now established as their own “command central” and sadly, a place they had formerly gathered for family celebrations and good times. Buddy eventually led the family and rescue workers to the location of Pacheco’s capsized boat. It was on the northern end of Turquoise, near one of the makeshift islands that are present due to lake’s low water level.
By mid-morning, two Zodiac inflatable water crafts and a high-powered speed boat from the Summit County Water Rescue Team along with an eight-person team, including several in scuba gear joined the rescue efforts. Using their state-of-the-art “side scan radar,” divers discovered Pacheco’s body submerged in 24 feet of water, entangled in the line from the boat’s anchor.
Their mission now shifted into a recovery operation as the team dropped a special cage down into the water to retrieve the body. Tony Pacheco was pronounced dead at the scene by Lake County Coroner Shannon Kent at about 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon.
Many people may remember Tony as Chief, fondly called as the oldest of the six Pacheco children of Jose and Lena Pacheco. The family (originally from New Mexico) moved from the town of Gilman to Leadville in 1981. Most of his adult life Tony lived in Utah as a welder and had only recently returned home to Leadville two months ago to spend time with his ailing 88-year-old father.
“Chief liked to fish. It was not unusual for Tony to go off fishing with Buddy by himself,” said Randy. Services for Pacheco will be announced later in the week, check back and log-on to Leadville Today’s Obituary Page for more detailed information.