Settegast road has a nice little kayak launch at the end of it. You can launch right into Eckert Bayou and paddle straight into West Bay, which separates Galveston from the mainland.
The man launched from the Settegast ramp at 6am and paddled through the 60-degree water into a really strong, cold wind from the north. But he had a small trolling motor on his kayak to assist him as he headed out. And then no one heard anything from him. Later in the day, after he was reported missing to the Coast Guard and a search started, his cell phone was pinged in a couple of different locations. More groups jumped into a search including the Galveston Police, Jamaica Beach Fire, Galveston Fire, State Park rangers, Beach Patrol, TEXSAR, Galveston County CERT, and the Brazoria County Sheriff Office. There may have been others. By mid afternoon his kayak was found. Crews searched into the night, paused for a few hours, an and resumed the next morning. Finally, his body was found miles away late morning the following day. He was face up with a lifejacket on.
The Beach Patrol/Jesse Tree Survivor Support Network (SSN) was called out to aid the growing number of family members who headed down to Galveston. At one point there were over 25 people there, with multiple groups broken out in prayer circles, question and answer sessions, and grief therapy. Casa Del Mar helped us out with a hotel room for the closest family members to spend the night and a local realty firm with a nearby office offered to let the family gather out of the elements.
In my career with the Beach Patrol I have seen, time and time again, Galvestonians give so much to people in need. I’ve been privileged to witness how we consistently come together in times of crisis to help each other and those who visit. It’s beautiful, and heartwarming, and restores faith in the human spirit. It’s probably the main reason I love my job and living here. But there’s one thing it doesn’t do. It doesn’t bring him back. It doesn’t bring any of them back.
Because we can’t bring back the dead, Ocean Lifesaving focuses so much energy on prevention. Half a million people are moved from dangerous conditions a year by the Galveston Beach Patrol alone. Not the mention the 30 to 50 thousand children that receive water safety information presentations a year in the county.
Boating is tough. The Coast Guard, law enforcement marine divisions, and Park and Wildlife do an admirable job of getting into out to the public. But its tough and there’s a lot of ground to cover. The encouraging thing is the information is simple. Have a plan, communicate your plan. Know the conditions and your personal limitations. Wear a properly fitted lifejacket. Simple stuff.
The hardest thing is getting everyone to realize one critical thing. It can happen to anyone, so take reasonable precautions. Then go have fun.