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Officials worry about spike in Lake Mead drownings


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Officials worry about spike in Lake Mead drownings

By Jennifer Kastner. CREATED Jul 24, 2014

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Rangers at Lake Mead are seeing a spike in the number of drownings.

Over the past week, they've been working to recover the bodies of three men who went missing on separate occasions. Two are still missing. The third body was discovered on Wednesday night.

"It has been an emotional week for those families involved [and] for their friends, as well as for our rangers and the other search crews. It is very difficult and challenging to do three search and rescue operations at one time," said Christie Vanover with the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Vanover told Action News there have been nine presumed drownings in 2014, so far. In 2013, there were three drownings. In 2012, there were eight drownings.

Vanover said rangers are most worried about the number of open water drownings, rather than shoreline drownings. They believe the number of drownings dropped in 2013 after the staff placed free life jacket stations around the lake.

25-year-old Irvin Andrade was last seen on Sunday, when he reportedly lost hold on a life raft and went under. Since his disappearance, rangers have been working to recover his body.

Meanwhile, his friends and family said they're conducting their own recovery efforts by searching on boats and kayaks. On Thursday night, Andrade's fiance spoke with Action News about the agony she's going through.

"I'm constantly being told to be realistic. It's been almost 5 days [since he went missing] but there's still that little piece of hope that I'm holding onto. Maybe it's just by a string now, but I'm still holding onto it."

She said Irvin was an incredible man and a wonderful father to their 3-year-old girl.

Neither Andrade nor the other two swimmers were wearing life jackets.

Rangers said Andrade went missing in an area of open water that's almost 300 feet deep. While they continue to search the water's surface, they said they don't have the technology to search as deep as they need to.

Vanover said rangers have asked for a volunteer recovery team's assistance, but that team cannot help until next week. She said that team has the capabilities of searching at significant depths.

Meanwhile, Rivera said she and her family are far from giving up their fight to find him. They've even considered hiring a specialized recovery team to help.

"I'm constantly praying to [Irvin]. It's still so surreal to me. I still feel like I'm going to wake up from this nightmare," she added.