EXCLUSIVE: Lake Berryessa drowning victim's family mourns 'heartbreaking' loss of 18-year-old son

ByLeslie Brinkley KGO logo
Wednesday, July 13, 2022
EXCLUSIVE: Lake Berryessa drowning victim's family remembers son
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An 18-year-old recent high school graduate, Zaire Fairley-Jackson, drowned in Lake Berryessa. The third person to drown there in the last two weeks.

ANTIOCH, Calif. (KGO) -- An 18-year-old recent high school graduate, Zaire Fairley-Jackson, drowned in Lake Berryessa on Sunday. The third person to drown there in the last two weeks.

Fairley-Jackson's family spoke out about the tragedy saying he was an athlete and knew how to swim.

"I couldn't ask for a better son. My son was the greatest to me," said Zaire's dad Watu Jackson.

Fairley-Jackson had just graduated from Jesse Bethel High School in Vallejo where he was captain of his basketball team and went to prom.

RELATED: 3rd drowning in 2 weeks reported at Lake Berryessa in Napa County

His stepmom and his father are just in shock as they shared recent pictures of the family.

The 18-year-old went up to Lake Berryessa Sunday with three of his teammates.

"I think they were just having a good time out there, turning 18, trying to live their life. Having fun. And Zaire fell and slipped into the water," said the teen's stepmom Melissa Jackson.

Where it happened is called Smittle Creek, a day-use area along the shores of Lake Berryessa, where Fairley-Jackson is believed to have fallen off a log he was walking on.

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The Napa County Sheriff's deputy who was there Sunday, Deputy James Hartley pointed at the shoreline and said, "When I showed up the young man was already out of the water and some off-duty nurses were actively giving him CPR. My first response was to beach my boat and render aid the best I could."

But Fairley-Jackson did not survive, making him the third person to drown at the popular Bay Area lake in the last two weeks. There have been 11 drownings at Berryessa since 2020, most of them at Oak Shores where there are racks of orange life jackets available for free public use.

The Napa County Sheriff's department says the lake is deeper than people realize with a sharp drop-off.

Zaire's family hopes to talk to the friends who were with him the day he drowned.

RELATED: Concord man drowns at Lake Berryessa

They've set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for his funeral.

"For us to lose Zaire, it's heartbreaking. At this point right now we just need answers and do right by my son. That's it. We just want closure," said Zaire's parents.

Earlier this year we spoke to Zaire's stepmom after thieves broke into a storage unit she was using to store items from her Oakland salon she was forced to close due to the pandemic.

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Jackson said the suspects made off with about $10,000 worth of items she was going to use to open up a second location this year. However, due to the theft that has now been put on hold.

At this time, there's no word on whether an arrest has been made in this case.

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