The inspector general's office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has taken over the investigation of two Forest Service rangers who failed to assist four men whose canoe capsized at a lake 12 miles west of Lancaster, resulting in the drowning of one man, officials said Friday.
George Roby, forest supervisor of the Angeles National Forest, asked that inspector general's investigators look into the incident at Elizabeth Lake because of the need for an "outside perspective" in the probe, said Bob Swinford, spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.
Floyd Cotton, regional inspector general, said his office's investigation is intended to "preserve integrity and objectivity in operations of the Department of Agriculture." The Forest Service is part of the Department of Agriculture.
Turn Over Findings
At the close of its investigation, the inspector general's office will turn over the findings to the Forest Service, which would then decide whether and how to discipline the rangers, Swinford said.
Officials declined to identify the male and female Forest Service firefighters who are the focus of the investigation. Those rangers acknowledged they made "no effort" to assist the boaters, saying they did not recognize it as an emergency, officials said.
After spending an hour in the water, three men were later rescued by county firefighters and volunteers and hospitalized with hypothermia. The fourth, 24-year-old Robert Varrick of Lancaster, disappeared under water within a few yards of rescuers. His body was recovered the next day.