AUSTIN — 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.
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, 7 for driving while intoxicated, 14 for public intoxication and 36 on various drug-related offenses.
“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.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of all this weekend’s victims,” Shaw continued. “Game wardens will continue to be vigilant in our efforts to protect Texans on our public water. I would implore all Texans when boating to wear their lifejackets, be aware of their surroundings and return home safely with their families.”
Leading up to the weekend, he said, game wardens developed partnerships with many local law enforcement agencies in an attempt to increase water safety awareness as well as facilitating enhanced BWI enforcement.
“We also promoted water safety throughout the weekend on our social media outlets including the official Texas Game Warden Facebook and Twitter pages,” said Grahame Jones, TPWD Chief of Special Operations. “We reported major events that were subsequently shared by media throughout the state. In the days leading up to Memorial Day and through Monday night, it appears that we directly reached 118,648 Facebook users and 370,490 Twitter viewers, for a total direct reach of more than 489,000 people.”
Jones said he was particularly pleased that the news media took an interest in and shared the department’s water-related posts.
“Clearly, the partnership between law enforcement and media helped increase water safety awareness,” he said.
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.
Dive Team: Response and recovery of drowning victim on Lake Lewisville. Dive team conducted an investigation, applied sonar technology to locate the victim and divers made the recovery.
STORM (Statewide Forensics Reconstruction and Mapping Team): Responded to and assisted with investigations involving four boating accidents involving death and serious injury.
CID (Criminal Investigations Division): Responded to and assisting with investigation related to a boating accident. CIT (Critical Incident Team): Conducted peer support for game wardens involved in a Jasper County boat accident in which a game warden sustained 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.
“The work conducted by our game wardens over the weekend is a testament to their professionalism,” said Col. Craig Hunter, TPWD Director of Law Enforcement.
Hunter noted that game wardens focused on ensuring public safety throughout the state’s waterways.
“Everyone must play a part in increasing water safety in Texas,” he said. “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.”