Has anyone drowned in Lake Merritt? tl;dr: yes.

On December 30, 1900, 10-year-old Roy C. Fernald was playing with friends on the 12th Street Bridge when he slipped and fell into Lake Merritt. The boy could not swim and was already underwater when Thomas H. Dunakin, a contractor riding by on his bicycle dove into lake and rescued Fernald, who was resuscitated on shore.

Two young boys, Whitney Stowe and Arthur Drew, were saved from drowning in Lake Merritt when their boat capsized in a 'sudden squall' on March 25, 1904. Ambrose Carpenter and Stanley Hess heard the screams and rescued the two boys.

On May 2, 1908 two boys in a canoe on the north side of Lake Merritt collided with another canoe carrying another two boys and both overturned in the water. Although the two boys in the second canoe, 12-year-old Rufus Timm and playmate Ralph Grimes, were eventually rescued by other boaters, 15-year-old Paul Timm of 817 - 20th Street and 13-year-old Paul Jones of 803 Market Street, drowned in the lake.

Mrs. Annie Campbell attempted to commit suicide in Lake Merritt on August 30, 1910, due to unbearable pain from x-ray burns she sustained from doctors treating her injuries which occurred in the San Francisco Earthquake on April 18, 1906. This was her third attempt at suicide which failed when laborers at the Municipal salt water pumping plant rescued Campbell from the lake.

Two sisters, Lyba Sheffield and Nita Sheffield, described as 'comely and athletic girl students of the University of California,' saved two men who were drowning, Harry Leinert and Leo V. Belden, whose canoe capsized in a breeze on Lake Merritt. Leinert, a teller at Wickham Havens real estate office, and Belden, an employee of the Oakland Bank of Savings were floundering in 15 feet of water when the Sheffield sisters, who are skilled oarswomen, steered their rowboat over and rescued the men. The young women were all around athletes who held several trophies, had the distinction of swimming across the Golden Gate the previous year. 4

Two young men and a boy nearly drowned in Lake Merritt on March 6, 1927. The three were rescued by Traffic Officer A. H. Gladdin, who tossed them a life preserver as their boat overturned.

18-year-old Thornton Martin drowned in Lake Merritt on May 25, 1940. He and Jack McCarthy were in a kayak which overturned. Martin wore a hearing aid, and was unable to hear the instructions of rescuers.

An unidentified man was found drowned in Lake Merritt on November 5, 2003. Police believe the man may have slipped on the wet shoreline near the 500 block of Bellevue Avenue.

The plot of a contemporary murder mystery novel entitled The Eight of Pentacles focuses on a disabled nurse whose client is found drowned in Lake Merritt.

Links and References

  1. Makes Gallant Rescue of Boy San Francisco Call December 30, 1900
  2. Two Young Oaklanders Save Playmates' Lives San Francisco Call March 26, 1904
  3. Paul Timm FindAGrave.com
  4. College Girls Save Men From Drowning San Francisco Call March 11, 1912
  5. Trio Rescued From Drowning in Lake Merritt Berkeley Daily Gazette March 7, 1927
  6. X-Ray Burns Make Woman Seek Death San Francisco Call August 30, 1910
  7. Unidentified man found in Lake Merritt Oakland Tribune November 6, 2003
  8. Youth Dies in Lake Merritt Oakland Tribune May 26, 1940