Local

Conflicting stories in Lake Don Pedro drowning

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Authorities have completed an autopsy on the young Merced woman who died this week. But they're still looking into the circumstances surrounding her death.

A dive team found the victim's body in Lake Don Pedro Tuesday morning. She's been identified as 25 year old Jennifer Heiser.

Action News traveled to Tuolumne County, where a sergeant told us Jennifer Heiser's death has been ruled a drowning. But he says the investigation is still ongoing because of the unusual nature of the case.

Jennifer Heiser's friends are stunned by the death of the young woman who had a passion for working out.

Heiser's friend, Lisa Willis said, "She was one of the most beautiful persons I know. She would come into the gym every day, smile, laugh, always had a story, outgoing."

Authorities say the 25 year old was boating at Lake Don Pedro with eight other people she had only previously met on Facebook when they noticed she was missing Monday evening. They told investigators they tried to find Jennifer, and then headed toward the marina to get help.

Sgt. Jeff Wilson said, "While en route a rope aboard the boat somehow ended up in the water, entangled in the prop, caused the boat to stop abruptly and abandoned it, and the boat sunk."

A 27 year old Merced woman was seriously injured in the accident. A boater passing by helped rescue the group, and Tuolumne County Sheriff's deputies started searching for Jennifer. But it wasn't until the next morning that the dive team found her body in the water.

"At this point, we're calling this a drowning," said Sgt. Jeff Wilson. "There is no foul play."

Despite the autopsy results, some of Jennifer's friends remain suspicious. Lisa Willis says the circumstances seem strange, and she claims to have heard conflicting stories about the accident.

Willis said, "I just want em to come forward the people that were on that boat, tell the truth what happened."

Sergeant Jeff Wilson says Jennifer's death appears to be a tragic accident, but the investigation is not over. "It does seem a little unusual, and that's why we're looking into it just to make sure there's nothing we're missing on this."

Action News confirmed one of the people on the boat with Jennifer was an off-duty CHP Officer, but investigators say he was not the driver.

Authorities say if the person driving was under the influence of alcohol they could face charges. But at this point, no charges have been filed.

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Tags:
don pedro, drowning, local, sara sandrik
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