Robert Sloan Outdoors: Memorial Day weekend deadly for East Texas boaters

Robert Sloan photo

A boating accident on the Angelina River that took two lives over the Memorial Day weekend was one of many boating-related fatalities over a three-day span.

“Texas game wardens investigated seven drowning deaths and another four boating-related fatalities over what proved to be one of the state’s deadliest Memorial Day weekends,” says Mike Cox with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The boat collision on the Angelina River was between a bass boat and bay boat that collided when they rounded a blind point. Will Kirkpatrick, who is on the Texas Boating Recreational Safety Panel and was on the scene, says the bay boat climbed over the top of the bass boat. The man and woman in the bass boat were killed. The man, woman and kids in the bay boat were basically uninjured with the exception of one broken bone.

In another boating accident on Sam Rayburn, a game warden was thrown from his boat and ended up getting his leg slashed by the propeller.

In addition to handling those tragedies, game wardens issued hundreds of water safety citations and made numerous arrests, including 31 persons for boating while intoxicated, seven for driving while intoxicated, 14 for public intoxication and 36 on various drug-related offenses, according to Cox.

“Texas game wardens will remember this Memorial Day weekend for years to come,” said Lt. Col. Danny Shaw, Deputy Director of Law Enforcement for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Tragically, this was one of the deadliest three-day holidays in recent memory.”

Wardens responded to 21 boating accidents that in addition to four deaths led to two serious injuries.

Game wardens also responded to seven search and rescue situations and assisted local agencies during severe flash flooding in Val Verde, Lubbock, Archer, Medina, Uvalde and Medina counties.

“Game wardens will continue to be vigilant in our efforts to protect Texans on our public water,” says Shaw. “I would implore all Texans when boating to wear their lifejackets, be aware of their surroundings and return home safely with their families.”

For the first time during a major holiday weekend, several of the agency’s newly created statewide law enforcement teams were deployed to assist local game wardens. A dive team helped in the recovery of a drowning victim on Lake Lewisville. Divers used sonar technology to locate the victim.

“Everyone must play a part in increasing water safety in Texas,” says Shaw. “I urge every Texan to wear a life jacket while on our lakes, rivers and bays and to not consume alcohol while boating in Texas. Your life could well depend on it.”

‘Never Happens’ tells true stories of water tragedies

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has released a sobering video aimed at motivating teens and young adults to follow simple safety guidelines while boating. It debuts in the wake of an unusually high number of drownings and fatal boating accidents across the state in recent weeks.

“The video, ‘Never Happens: True Stories From Texas Boaters and Swimmers,’ is a compelling reminder to be safe on the water by wearing a life jacket, learning to swim and closely supervising children to prevent drowning,” said Tim Spice, TPWD’s boater education manager. “Thanks to the Texas legislature, which mandated the new video and directed that it to be shown in driver education classes, the message will be reaching some 225,000 15- and 16-year-olds annually.”

In the video, which will be shown to all teenagers taking driver education courses, several teenagers who witnessed or survived a boating accident or drowning tell their tragic stories.

Since May 9, at least 24 people have lost their lives on Texas waters in boating or swimming accidents worked by Texas game wardens, an unusually high number of fatalities.

Last year in Texas, 146 accidents were reported by the U.S. Coast Guard, 31 of which ended with deaths. Statistics show many of these tragedies could have been prevented.

You can view the news video on YouTube.