AUSTIN – Thousands of Texans and out-of-state visitors headed to Texas lakes, rivers and coastal bays to celebrate the Independence Day weekend. Texas Game Wardens were out in force to ensure everyone stayed safe on the water.
“Texas Game Wardens conducted safety checks on more than 12,220 vessels statewide between Friday and Sunday over the Fourth of July weekend,” said Cody Jones, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) Assistant Commander for Marine Enforcement. “Our game wardens were present across Texas waterways doing their absolute best to help holiday waterway visitors have a responsible weekend, enabling many safe returns home and enjoyable holiday memories.”
In addition to issuing 1,474 citations and 1,797 warnings for various boating safety law violations, wardens arrested 42 individuals for Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) and filed eight other charges for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). Additionally, another 33 people were arrested for various other charges.
Texas Game Wardens also conducted multiple search and rescues over the holiday weekend. They also assisted with 18 reportable boating accidents at several Texas lakes and rivers including: Nasworthy, Bob Sandlin, Grapevine, Richland Chambers, Canyon Lake, Possum Kingdom, McQueeny Granbury, Corpus Christi, Lewisville, Ray Roberts, Lake Fork Ray Hubbard, Neches River, Lake Austin, Lake Travis (2) and Lake Belton.
Game wardens were involved statewide with numerous waterway assists or other incidents.
In one incident in Bexar County, game wardens rescued a boat that was taking on water and transported the boaters to safety on Braunig Lake.
In another incident on Falcon Lake off the Rio Grande River, Game Wardens attempted to conduct a safety inspection on a white skeeter vessel. The vessel was taken to a boat ramp on suspicion of BWI after a brief pursuit. An inspection of the vessel revealed more than 200 pounds of illegal narcotics in the vessel’s storage compartments.
In Travis County, the TPWD dive team assisted with locating an open-water fatality at Lake Travis. Four game warden vessels, a game warden helicopter and 10 game wardens assisted in the initial response. Game wardens also assisted with a high-water rescue.
Texas Game Wardens also dealt with two boating fatalities and seven open water fatalities on Texas waterways over the Independence Day weekend. The two boating-related fatalities occurred on Lake Lewisville. Open-water fatality locations included the Brazos River, Lake Amon G Carter, Lake Travis, North Bosque River, Joe Pool, the Gulf of Mexico (Matagorda Beach) and the Comal River.
“The dedicated efforts of the game wardens while working these tragic events is second to none – and is never the easiest part of the job,” said Cody Jones, TPWD Assistant Commander for Marine Enforcement. “We keep the families who have suffered in our thoughts and prayers.”
On more than one occasion, game wardens were involved in search and rescue activities, responded to numerous boating accidents, and engaged in rescues in which life jackets were not being worn.
In Austin on Lady Bird Lake, TPWD Boater Education Manager Kimberly Sorensen and City of Austin Lake Patrol made contact with 60 people without proper life jackets on their canoes, kayaks or stand up paddleboards. Texas Water Safety Act states that everyone on board a boat must have a life jacket that is easily accessible and children 12 and under must wear a jacket while the boat is underway or drifting on the water.
“Many accidents and fatalities could be avoided by taking a boater education course and using life jackets, ” said Kimberly Sorensen, TPWD Boater Education manager.
In addition to the boating incidents over the Fourth of July weekend, Texas Game Wardens statewide juggled numerous other non-boating related incidents, including illicit drug movement, illicit drug possession and use, felony and parole violation arrests, response to shootings, domestic violence, illegal shooting of wildlife incidents, jeep rollovers, helping lost children locate parents, among others.