On July 8th, at 3:45 p.m. a sudden storm at Lake Mead featuring 70 mile per hour winds created five foot waves and swells that reached eight feet, amid almost a dozen emergency rescues, two men barely escaped death. National Park Service Rangers and other emergency crews responded to 70 distress calls and as a result conducted 11 rescues at the lake where the sudden thunderstorm caught everyone by surprise.
Park spokesperson Christie Vanover praised the responders for their quick and decisive action. She also praised the people in the lake who all reacted just as quickly to the sudden storm and most of whom put their life jackets back on and headed for shore. Reportedly, only one woman was rescued after treading water for over three hours without her life preserver on.
Not mentioned by other articles were two friends, Omar Giovanni Ibarra aged 35 and his 29 year-old friend, Cody Riechers who both had a very scary and life threatening experience at the lake. Despite the fact that the day was overcast, the two men decided to head to Lake Mead and take a kayak out to an island. Ignoring the stormy weather and increasing wave size the two men trusted to the fact that there were no weather warnings in place.
On the way out to the island, Cody and Omar left off their life jackets. After spending a couple of hours relaxing, they soon tired of the continuing rain and headed back to the lake’s external shore. Both friends put their life jackets back on when they saw how high the waves were getting.
The sudden storm at Lake Mead hit the two men on their return trip to shore and capsized their kayak putting them in a near life or death situation from which they barely escaped. The combination of 70 mile per hour winds, high waves and eight foot swells flipped their craft over and Cody was flung into the water.
In the middle of the storm, as he treaded water Riechers said that he screamed at Omar to paddle and hold on. Ibarra responded to his friend by telling him to swim for help. Cody was reluctant to leave but finally headed for shore.
As Riechers swam off, Omar said that watching his friend leave was “one of the most horrific moments of his life.” He also revealed that he began “crying and praying,” but mostly for his friend. Ibarra then held on to the capsized craft and hoped that someone would come along and save him.
At least one boat came near the stranded man and he screamed for help. Unfortunately the people on the craft could not hear his cries of distress. Omar had to cling to the kayak for three hours until what he described as a “tourist boat” came along to get him out of the water.
Ibarra related how he was so stressed out by the experience that he was shaking and could not remember Cody’s last name when he was rescued by the second boat. He also had a difficult time answering police queries about his friend’s location. Omar then said that just as he was about to answer, he saw Cody walking past.
Breaking away from the questioning, Ibarra ran to hug his friend who had swum for 40 minutes and then walked barefoot across rocks to reach help. The sudden storm at Lake Mead affected a large number of people and the two men who barely escaped death survived an experience that left them bloody and bruised but very glad to be alive.
By Michael Smith
Contributor Alberto Angulo