Efforts to find a missing swimmer at San Luis Pass off Galveston Island ended at 8 a.m. Sunday when a body was recovered by Gulf Coast Search and Rescue, a nonprofit group that assists local law enforcement and first responders in rescue and recovery operations.
Jose Abel Hernandez, 29, was found near where he had gone into the water at about 2:30 a.m. while hanging out on the beach with friends, Galveston Island Beach Patrol Chief Peter Davis said.
“His friends saw him go in but no one saw him leave the water,” Davis said. Alcohol was involved, according to witnesses, Davis said.
A search ensued with responders from Galveston Island Beach Patrol, the Coast Guard with two boats and a helicopter, the Jamaica Beach Police Department Fire and Rescue Unit and the Galveston Police Department Marine Division and dive team. The Galveston Fire Department and EMS also responded.
Hernandez was a native of El Salvador, living in Houston with his family, Davis said. A tattoo of his son’s name on his arm made identification possible at the scene.
The Jesse Tree Survivors Support Network arrived early Sunday morning to provide translation services to friends and family of Hernandez, while also providing food, shelter and counseling.
“They’re giving them a chance to start the grieving process,” Davis said.
The family has requested the media not contact them, Davis said.
Hernandez went into the water about 500 yards north of the San Luis Pass bridge and was recovered about 50 yards from the bridge and 100 yards from the shore, not far from where he went in, Davis said.
Swimming is prohibited by city ordinance at that location on the Galveston side of the bridge.
Rough conditions and high tides have persisted all along Galveston Island over the Memorial Day weekend, and swimmers should take caution to not swim on either end of the island at the Galveston Ship Channel to the east or San Luis Pass to the west, officials said.
“There are very dangerous tidal currents in these areas,” Davis said.
The best advice is to swim within view of a lifeguard station and to avoid swimming near any structures like rock groins or piers that cause dangerous riptide conditions, Davis said.
Lifeguards moved an estimated 1,000 swimmers away from dangerous areas on Saturday and rescued at least four swimmers in distress, Davis said.