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Family of drowning victim wants to see changes at Lake Pleasant

“The lake should be closed”
MCSO says Neria Aranbayeva jumped off a boat and swam to the shore. While swimming back to the boat, he went underwater and never came back up.
Published: May. 17, 2022 at 5:53 PM MST
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PEORIA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — The family of one of the four recent drowning victims at Lake Pleasant wants to see serious changes at the lake to prevent future tragedies. “Something needs to be done like closing the lake, paying people emotional damage, moral damage,” said Svetlana Aranbayeva. “Let’s say if you’re speeding on the road, and we don’t get a ticket, we don’t get punished, we’re never going to improve. The same thing here.”

Aranbayeva’s 20-year-old son, Neria, drowned at Lake Pleasant on April 24. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office says Neria jumped off a boat and swam to the shore. While swimming back to the boat, he went underwater and never came back up. “This happened to someone who was following all the rules, who was athletic, literally this shouldn’t have happened to him. He was young, he was healthy, there was nothing wrong with him,” said Irina Sulay, Neria’s sister.

Children under 12 years old are required to wear life jackets in the lake and on a boat. MCSO says there is zero tolerance when it comes to that law. However, for everyone else, they’re not required to wear a life jacket. If you’re on a boat, the vessel has to have enough life jackets for each person on board, but they do not need to be wearing them. “It seems we can’t do this enough for the public and there’s (sic) many questions--what can we do to prevent this? We’re doing it right now. We’re trying to give you guys the tools and the necessary information,” said Sgt. Joaquin Enriquez with MCSO’s Lake Patrol Division.

MCSO is sounding the alarm on water safety after the recent drownings at Lake Pleasant. “The last four weeks, we had four drownings, right behind me. That’s unheard of,” said MCSO Detective Rob Marske. “Drownings are preventable. I don’t care what anyone says, but they are preventable and if these individuals were wearing a life jacket, they’d be with us today.”

However, Neria’s family says it’s not that simple. They want to see more oversight on the lake. “Some kind of maybe supervision, or whatever rules would be, so people would know there is a very dangerous lake and they should not jump in the water, things would be different,” said Aranbayeva. “Because there’s no price to pay, they only make money. Things are never going to change.”

Aranbayeva believes the lake should be closed as its already taken too many lives. “I personally think the lake should be closed because something mystic in this lake happens. It just swallows. The water just swallows people,” Aranbayeva said.

Sulay also says boat rentals should require a certification or boating license. She wonders if that could have saved her brother. “They gave these boats to young children who didn’t know what they were doing. We don’t even know what exactly happened there,” Sulay explained. “Had they known how to operate the boat properly, would they have been able to come save him on time?”

MCSO says they patrol the lakes in Maricopa County every day. They also lend life jackets out to boaters or water users if they do not have enough onboard.