A 68-year-old man who drowned in Lake Yosemite has been identified by the coroner's officer as Jim Strealy of Merced.
Although deputies are still unsure about how Strealy ended up in the water, the death is believed to be accidental and foul play isn't believed to be a factor, according to Deputy Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman.
Deputies have speculated Strealy may have been flying a large kite too close to the water on Friday, near the Department of Fish and Game building, and fell in. "He wasn't swimming," MacKenzie said.
An autopsy was conducted Tuesday, but the final results won't be available until a later date.
MacKenzie said the kite Strealy was flying required two hands to operate. Deputies found items for the kite in Strealy's car.
The victim's nephew, 46-year-old Turlock resident Mike Strealy, said his uncle was a kite enthusiast, owning "a few hundred" kites -- including one with a wing span of around 30 feet.
Mike Strealy said his uncle had been going to the lake to fly kites for years, on an almost daily basis. He said law enforcement's theory of how his uncle died is plausible. He added that his uncle had a bad knee and may have accidentally fallen into the water. "Where he fell in wasn't deep, but if you go further it drops off pretty quickly," Strealy said.
Mike Strealy said he'll remember his uncle as a fun-loving person who enjoyed sharing his appreciation of kites with others. Strealy said onlookers would sometimes start conversations with his uncle about his kites, and he'd often let them fly some of his beginner models. "That was his thing. Everybody liked him," Strealy said. "It was really impressive what he could do with his kites."
A retiree who used to work at a nut processing plant, Jim Strealy also participated in April's Livingston Kite Festival, and had organized the annual kite-flying day at Merced College. He traveled to kite festivals around the state, Mike Strealy said.
In 2008, Jim Strealy told a Sun-Star photographer he'd been flying kites seriously for almost a quarter of a century. He owned so many kites, there were some he hadn't even flown. When asked what motivated him, Jim Strealy replied "I put on my music and dance with the wind."
Divorced, Strealy is survived by his daughter, Lindsay Strealy, 28, and son John Daniel Strealy, 17.
A potluck and memorial will be held 3 p.m. Sunday at Lake Yosemite to remember him.
Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or email@example.com.