The only recorded Berryessa spillway death is that of swimmer Emily Schwalek, 41, of Davis who was killed in 1997 when she was sucked down the Monticello Dam at Lake Berryessa spillway.
Lake Berryessa hole acts as a “giant drain” for the Monticello Dam in Napa Valley, California. Measuring at approximately 72 feet wide and 245 feet long, the spillway is known as the Glory Hole.
It routes excess water from the lake into a 72 foot diameter entrance structure known as the Glory Hole down to a 28-foot-wide exit pipe. This helps to prevent flooding disasters for the thousands of nearby residents when the lake reaches its maximum capacity after heavy rainfall.
The Lake Berryessa spillway collects the overflowing water and transports it 2,000 feet into nearby Putah Creek
Lake Berryessa can hold 2 million megalitres of water before it overflows down the “glory hole”. The Morning Glory Spillway is one of the largest drains of its kind in the world
Berryessa spillway death:
Authorities have said apart from swimmer Emily Schwalek, there has never been a documented case of anyone else falling through the Glory Hole.
As to how Emily lost her life, witnesses reported seeing Schwalek swimming toward the spillway at about 6:30 p.m. Sunday, that fateful day in 1997. The woman dropped out of sight after gripping the edge of the hole for about 20 minutes, witnesses said.
The other time a living thing was sucked into a massive “glory hole” was when a bird was sucked in a Californian reservoir but reports say, the bird survived the turbulent 75-metre drop and flew away unharmed after being shot out “like a bullet”.
In a video posted online, the cormorant was seen drifting for a few seconds along the water as it is pulled toward the 22-metre-wide, 75-metre-deep drain.
It then tumbles over the edge and into the water funnel, in what was presumed was a fatal plunge.
Despite the odds, the bird came out alive.