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Swimmer Refuses To Come Out Of Echo Park Lake For Six Hours

Echo Park Lake (Photo by howard-f via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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This weekend's heat wave drove many people to find a place to swim, but for one young woman the decision was nearly life threatening.

A young woman was first spotted swimming near the center of Echo Park Lake this past Saturday around 5 p.m. Police and firefighters called to the scene attempted to coax the woman out of the water—which is closed to swimming—fearing that she might drown in deepest section of the lake, reports The Eastsider. But authorities were reluctant to enter the water immediately and approach the woman—who did not respond to requests to exit the lake—concerned that she might panic and further endanger herself or rescuers.

“Our concern is not really her swimming in the lake, but her psychological state and fear of her drowning,” Lt. Wes Buhrmester of the LAPD Rampart Division told The Eastsider. ” We also have to be cautious so that rescuers don’t aggravate the situation, and we end up becoming part of the problem.”

Rescuers hoped that they could convince the woman to leave the water on her own accord, but were initially unsuccessful as the woman would not exit. A police sergeant managed to convince her to put on a life vest thrown to her, which helped to minimize the danger of her drowning. Paramedics standing by did not believe the water was cold enough to put the woman at risk for hypothermia. Lt. Buhrmester made the decision to wait for the arrival of a boat from LAPD’s Underwater Dive Unit, which arrived around 11 p.m. to help rescue the woman from the water.

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Exhausted after roughly six hours spent in the water, the woman was finally floated to the boathouse with the help of officers in the rescue boat. She was then examined by paramedics before being brought to a hospital for physical and psychiatric treatment. The woman—whose name has not been released—was identified as a 27-year-old from Orange County. It still remains unclear why she initially entered the water—which is primarily filled with storm drain runoff—or why she would not exit the water for six hours.

In anticipation of anyone who might suggest that the rescue operation was a waste of city resources, Buhrmester had this to say:

I could see this being considered an excess expenditure of time and resources. Time was on our side, and we utilized it. But I’d much rather be criticized for resource management, than for making a decision to leave and let her settle her issues for herself, to find out later she drowned. Hopefully she will receive the help she needs.