Press Releases

5 family members found
drowned in Lake Isabella

Friday July 05, 2002

LAKE ISABELLA — The death toll in a family drowning tragedy grew to five with the discovery of another body in Lake Isabella. 

The Kern County Coroner’s office on Thursday identified the parents as Martin and Charlotte Skaggs, both 45, and the girls as Melanie, 10, April, 8, and Lindsey, 7. 

A 5-year-old boy remained hospitalized on life support. 

The family members drowned on Tuesday in the 11,000-acre reservoir in the Kern River Valley. The body of the third child was not recovered until Wednesday evening. 

They family reportedly had been living out of a car and staying with friends in the area. 

“There is a lot of speculation of what happened, but based on interviews with witnesses, we do not feel this is anything more than a tragic accident at this point,” Kern County sheriff’s Cmdr. Marty Williamson said. 

“I’ve been here 26 years and I can’t remember such a tragic event with so many deaths,” he said. 

The six family members apparently were playing on a sandbar in chest-deep water about 100 feet from shore when one of the girls slipped into deep water. The girl may have been pushed from the shoreline by the wind when she came up, and “everybody panicked,” Sheriff Carl Sparks said. 

A camper, who was parking his Jet Ski on shore, saw the family splashing in the water and asked if they were OK, but no one answered. When the camper turned around and saw no one, he got on his Jet Ski and found the mother and her son, Williamson said. 

Charlotte Skaggs was taken by helicopter to a hospital where she was pronounced dead. 

Authorities found the father in about 30 feet of water. Two of the girls were recovered from about 10 feet of water. 

The parents had previous drug convictions, but investigators had no indication alcohol or drugs were used. Routine toxicology tests will be done on the bodies of the two adults, Williamson said. 

Two other boys in the family, ages 12 and 14, had been placed in foster care. The boys were at a friend’s house when the drowning occurred. 

The children were known to be good students, and friends described the family as close-knit. 

Lake Isabella is about 153 miles northeast of Los Angeles, about 30 miles northeast of Bakersfield.