Equipment operator killed in Lake Davis accident

Rescue personnel search for a missing heavy equipment operator at Lake Davis on Friday.
Carolyn Carter
Staff Writer

Update 11/2/2012  8:00 pm
Late this afternoon the body of Jose Noriega was recovered at the excavator accident site according to the Plumas County Sheriff's Department. Next of kin has been notified. 

A 55-year-old heavy equipment operator is missing and feared drowned after the excavator he was operating tipped over and became submerged in Lake Davis on Friday morning.

Search and rescue personnel were searching the site around the sunken excavator. The man was still missing Friday afternoon.

According to his brother, who was also working at the site, the missing man is from San Bernardino County. His name was being withheld until his family had been notified.

The victim’s brother said the accident happened about 9 a.m.

The victim was operating an 80,000-pound excavator at Honker Cove Boat Ramp when the excavator tipped into the lake with him still in the cab.

The missing man is an employee of Creative Home Interiors Construction based out of Anaheim. He was mucking out the bottom of the lake to prepare for a new boat ramp at the cove. 

His brother, who was scooping the mud and transporting it up away from the water, said he was the last person to see the man before the accident. 

After a trip to the mud pile at the top of the ramp parking lot, the brother returned to see that the excavator had disappeared into the lake. 

He said he immediately called 911. He also contacted the construction company’s owner, Mitch Darwish, who drove from Reno to the scene.

The brother said CHI Construction has been working on the boat ramp project since Sept. 19. He said excavators on this project have gotten stuck three times in the past three weeks.

Fire department personnel at the scene said they responded to a call earlier this month to pull out a smaller excavator that had gotten stuck. They said that with the muddy conditions, it would be very difficult to get the larger excavator out of the mud.

“We are working very hard to get him out,” Assistant Plumas County Sheriff Gerry Hendrick said. “These are very difficult conditions.”

Portola, Eastern Plumas and Beckwourth fire departments responded to the scene, and sent in a diver to locate the excavator at the bottom of the lake. Plumas County Search and Rescue also responded with a dive team after receiving a call at 9:08 a.m.

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