The well-preserved body of a man who disappeared while scuba diving in Lake Tahoe was recovered last month after spending 17 years on an underwater shelf in the lake's frigid waters.
Donald Christopher Windecker disappeared on July 10, 1994 after diving into the famously deep mountain lake, which plunges to a depth of about 1,645 feet. Windecker was accompanied by a friend at the time of his disappearance, who said Windecker experienced problems with his equipment after the pair began to ascend from a dive. His companion reportedly tried to help, but was forced to surface after he began running out of air.
El Dorado County Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Jim Byers told the Los Angeles Times that Windecker's body was found in such good condition that authorities will be able to conduct an autopsy on his remains.
"We'll be able to do a thorough autopsy. He may have had a heart attack or a stroke or maybe just ran out of air. Hopefully we'll determine what happened," Byers said.
Byers said Lake Tahoe's 35-degree and increased pressure - Windecker 's body was found by a group of mixed gas divers on an underwater shelf approximately 265 feet below the surface - is responsible for the body's surprisingly physical condition. Windecker's body was reportedly still donning a wetsuit and was buckled into his scuba gear and air tank.
Some Tahoe locals claim dozens of bodies can be found in the lakes deep waters. Among those rumored to populate its depths are Chinese laborers who helped construct the railroad across the Sierra Nevada in the 1860s as well gamblers and mobsters killed by the Mafia.
Tahoe is the second-deepest lake in the U.S., behind Oregon's Crater Lake, which has a maximum depth of 1949 feet.