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Sheriff's deputy drowns while trying to rescue friend in Lake Tahoe

Sheriff's deputy drowns while trying to rescue friend in Lake Tahoe
Deputy Carlos Francies died while trying to save a friend in Lake Tahoe. (Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office)

An off-duty Northern California deputy died Thursday while trying to save his friend from drowning in Lake Tahoe, authorities said.

Contra Costa County Sheriff's Deputy Carlos Francies, 30, of Sacramento died after falling unconscious in the water, according to the South Lake Tahoe Police Department. He was not wearing a life jacket.

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Francies, his girlfriend, sister and a friend rented paddleboards and kayaks and hit El Dorado Beach, police said. Winds were strong with 40 mphs gusts at the lake.

When Francies' sister fell off her kayak, his friend jumped into the water to help. At one point, it appeared Francies' friend was in distress and drowning.

Francies jumped off his paddleboard into the water and began swimming toward his friend. But after swimming for 20 feet, he was struggling to stay on the surface, and asked his girlfriend for a life jacket.

As she swam toward him with a life jacket, Francies sank below the water, authorities said. By the time his girlfriend reached him, Francies was unconscious.

He was pulled to the shore, but it was too late and he died at the scene, authorities said.

"Deputy Carlos Francies died doing what he was sworn to do: putting himself in harm's way to protect the lives of others," Sheriff David Livingston said.

Francies was hired by the Sheriff's Department in 2011 and was working in the Martinez Detention Facility.

Sgt. Shawn Welch said Francies "heroically sacrificed his life in the pursuit of trying to save the life of another."

Police, he said, often get "bad press."

"But 99% of all law enforcement will do anything for anybody at anytime," Welch said. "That's why we put on the uniform."

For breaking news in California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA on Twitter.

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