Diver who died after Lake Mendota rescue was state archaeologist
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Wisconsin historians are remembering the man who died after a dive in Lake Mendota last week as the “People’s Archaeologist.”
The Wisconsin State Historical Society is paying tribute to State Archaeologist James Skibo after authorities identified him as the diver who was found in the lake on Friday. The Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office is still determining the cause and manner of his death.
The Wisconsin Historical Society explained in a Facebook post that Skibo was on a routine work-up dive to prepare for maritime archaeology season. He was a certified diver and qualified for the depth of the dive and equipment being used, according to the organization.
“Jim was a champion, leader and mentor for his team, yet always eager to learn from those around him,” the Wisconsin Historical Society stated. “He was looking forward to getting back in the water with his colleagues this spring to further explore the site of the historic canoe recoveries, as he knew there are many stories yet to be shared.”
According to the Historical Society, Skibo joined the agency in July of 2021, overseeing the state’s 36,000 archaeological sites and research statewide. It highlighted his contributions to the recovery of two ancient canoes.
Skibo is survived by his wife and two children, the Historical Society noted.
“For those looking for a way to honor Jim, his family suggests giving back to the earth that he loved and learned from,” the Historical Society added.
The medical examiner’s office completed a forensic examination Saturday and noted additional testing is underway. It continues to investigate the 63-year-old Madison man’s death with the Dane County Sheriff’s Office.
MFD’s water rescue team was called to the lake around 9:20 a.m. Friday, MFD stated. Multiple emergency vehicles were seen on the lake’s edge, in the vicinity of the 3600 block of Lake Mendota Drive.
The Dane County Sheriff’s Office stated that Skibo was found unresponsive by a fellow diver in about 24 feet of water. Deputies were able to pull the man out of the water and bring him to shore, where they performed CPR. Officials took the man to UW Hospital, where he died.
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