DUBLIN (KPIX) – A boater enjoying a day on the water was killed in a freak accident, when he was sucked underwater by a pipe in the Delta, and drowned.

Carlos Tovar of Dublin was untangling a ski line when he was sucked under by an irrigation pipe in the Delta. His wife and friends tried desperately to pull him back on board.

“Unfortunately there was no amount of human power that could overcome the force from that pipe,” said the family’s attorney, Spencer Pahlke.

These irrigation pipes are scattered throughout channels in the delta near agricultural land. They pump water out of the Delta to crops.

“There are pipes that suction the water and pump it to pump station. They are sucking in thousands of gallons of water and pumping it out into other areas,” said Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department.


Some of our waterways are used for recreation but then they are also used for agriculture and there are pumping stations in certain areas within those regions where there are areas the public shouldn’t go but they have access to.

“You can see it’s an oddball man-made shape going up at an angle on the banks, so you know that’s a pipe and it doesn’t matter if the pipe is pushing water out or pulling it in,” said Kelly. “It’s a danger to you, either way, so you just need to stay away from it.”

“I think people anticipate it’s safe out there,” said Pahlke.

In Carlos’s case, he and his family weren’t off the beaten track. They were in a popular boating area where skiers and wakeboarders go.

“Carlos was more than 6 feet tall – 250 pounds – athletic man,” said Pahlke. “The point is it was impossible. The force was more force anyone could overcome – or anyone to get him out.”

As for warnings, “Usually there is signage and warning. People fish there – a lot of times – it goes unnoticed until an accident happens,” said Kelly.

The family says more needs to be done.

“The solution is simple. It has to do with physically preventing this by having the proper guards on and grates on the pipes,” said Pahlke. “I fear just having warnings is the type of thing that could lead to this again.”

As for who is responsible for the pipes, it depends on which pipe and where. It includes private ownership, individual farmers, but you also might have other districts or entities that have control and that is a major focus now of the family’s investigation.

This is the first death of this kind that KPIX knows of. In other cases, swimmers or fishermen have drowned because of the fast moving currents created by the pipes.