Tragedy was narrowly averted at Canyon Lake Boat Ramp No. 2 Sunday afternoon after an allegedly intoxicated man driving a jet ski with his 11-month-old baby in his lap tipped the vessel over, sending the child hurtling into the lake.
The baby was not wearing a life jacket, witnesses said. The incident occurred some 40 to 50 feet away from shore, in the middle of Turkey Cove.
A young girl on a tube towed behind the jet ski jumped off as the vessel continued to roar across the cove before crashing on the opposite shore. She was wearing a life jacket. The man, identified in Comal County jail records as 33-year-old Ledy Manuel Izquierdo-Castillo, was not wearing a safety lanyard that would have automatically cut off the jet ski’s engine.
Comal County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Jennifer Smith said he has been released from custody.
Horrified boat captain Conner Rust with Canyon Lake Vacations rushed to the scene after seeing the man treading in the water, holding the child by its leg, head still submerged.
A witness said Izquierdo-Castillo — who earlier allegedly cursed bystanders after they warned him not to do anything so dangerous — waved Rust away and waited for a family member to arrive on another jet ski instead.
Family Warned for Reckless Behavior
Renay Devine, Canyon Lake Vacations’ boat-hand manager, said she is a regular on the Turkey Cove ramp and warned the family — part of a group of around 15 people — several times not to be reckless.
Comal County Pct. 4 Constable Shane Rapp had been called to Boat Ramp No. 2 earlier Sunday to talk to the family, Devine said. He was not present when the incident occurred.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Press Officer Kirk McDonnell said CCSO deputies who arrived at the scene Sunday afternoon arrested the operator for boating-while-intoxicated (BWI)
“Game wardens responded to the initial call but will not take further actions for any boat-accident report due to no injuries or property damage,” he said. “Game wardens issued the operator two Class C citations and two written warnings.”
Devine said the family also visited Canyon Lake the previous weekend and also partied and drank alcohol.
Her son was so shaken by the incident he vomited afterwards and was up most of the night, reliving events in his mind, Devine said, adding it’s something she’ll never forget either.
More Law Enforcement Needed
Comal County, which is under fire from the Canyon Lake Boat Ramps Community Alliance (CLBRCA) for not doing more to address issues at its chaotic boat ramps, did not respond to a request for comment.
Doug Leecock with CLBRCA said despite new signage about wake zones, more needs to be done to keep people safe.
“These ramps need law enforcement from noon until sundown every weekend during the summer,’ he said. “Even in the county’s own survey, respondents resoundingly agreed that there needs to be more law enforcement. Whatever law enforcement presence is currently being used; it is not enough to manage the clear, apparent disregard for this signage solution.”
One possible solution might be to bring in law enforcement from nearby counties or use private security companies to enforce the rules at county boat ramps, Leecock said.
White buoys near Boat Ramp No. 2 clearly indicating a no-wake zone, where speed limits are five mph or less.
“The purpose is for safety of persons and property inside the no-wake zone,” Leecock said, warning that a few new signs from the county aren’t going to change “bad behavior.”
Dangerous Behavior Described
Devine said she sees all kinds of dangerous behavior at the boat ramp on a regular basis. After this near drowning she said she won’t wait again before taking more decisive action.
“Last night, that’s what kept me up,” she said. “I learned a lesson. I’m not going to keep giving people the benefit of the doubt out there.”
She called both CCSO’s non-emergency line and 9-1-1 Sunday. The baby’s uncle, who she guesstimates at six-feet-tall and 250 pounds, yelled and cursed at her to hang up because she was “lying.”
“We don’t need cops here,” he told her. The child’s mother also berated Devine for trying to intervene.
“We see a lot of things on a daily basis, accidents, people thrown from boats,” said Devine, who works at Boat Ramp No. 2 every day. She invites anyone who thinks the boat ramps are safe to spend two hours at any boat ramp any Saturday afternoon to see what really goes on.
“You name it, we see it…I can’t tell you how many times a day that we’re telling people to slow down.”
But Sunday’s incident was the first time she witnessed “something so preventable and stupid.
“Drink and drive and put an infant on the freaking water…something had better happen because this is ridiculous,” she said.
People try to blame outfitters for the dangerous conditions at boat ramps, Devine said. That’s not fair.
By default, these companies are on the front lines, trying to enforce confusing rules and keep people safe.