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Hughson man, 63, dies in kayak mishap
lake safety
Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy Martinez hands out life jackets at Modesto Reservoir on Monday. There have been three drownings at the reservoir within the two weeks (Photo courtesy of StanCo Sheriff).

Authorities have identified the victim of the Saturday, June 29 drowning at the Modesto Reservoir as Michael Sorenson, 63, of Hughson.

Sorenson was aboard a two-person kayak on the lake east of Waterford when it capsized between 4:15 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Sorenson was not wearing a life jacket at the time.

Sorenson was at the lake with family to celebrate grandson Wyatt’s 10th birthday. Sorenson and his five-year-old grandson Levi climbed aboard the kayak to fish on the lake when it capsized. Fishing nearby in a canoe were his son-in-law and a family friend. They saw the kayak flip and quickly paddled to rescue both. At some point while holding onto the side of the canoe Sorenson lost consciousness and slipped into the water. He was pulled to the shore where CPR was administered before he was airlifted to Memorial Medical Center where he was declared dead.

Sorenson grew up in Denair and was living in Hughson with wife Rene whom he married eight months ago.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the family cover burial expenses. The page, which can be found at, has raised only $1,290 of a $15,000 goal as of press time.

The Hughson man’s death was one of three within a week’s time at the reservoir as thousands have sought refuge from scorching triple-digit temperatures. A 38-year-old Oakland man drowned on Tuesday, July 2 after he was observed struggling to stay afloat in the reservoir. On Saturday a man was pulled from the water at around 12:30 p.m. and pronounced dead at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto.

The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department issued a reminder about ways to stay safe while having fun in the local waterways and lakes. They include:

• Wearing a life jacket as provided for free by Stanislaus County Parks & Recreation, regardless of your swimming abilities.

• Knowing your limitations when entering any body of water.

• Moderating alcohol intake.

• Always swim with someone else who can provide or reach out to others for help.

• Everyone is a safety officer. If you see someone struggling to swim, please call 911 immediately.

“Usually, every year we average between eight to 10 drownings throughout the summer,” noted Stanislaus County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Sgt. Veronica Esquivez. “We’re just starting July and we’re already at six. So, it’s definitely been at a higher rate this year.”