GALVESTON — A 12-year-old Houston girl who was on a school field trip is believed to have drowned in the surf off a Galveston beach Thursday, despite rescue efforts by her teacher and first responders, officials said. 

The Houston Kipp Academy charter school student was among about 20 classmates swimming in the Gulf of Mexico off 57th Street, when she went missing around 3 p.m., said Galveston Island Beach Patrol Chief Peter Davis. 

A group of five girls and their teacher were swimming about 30 yards from shore and away from the restricted swimming zones next to rock jetties, officials said. After two of students decided to return to shallower water, another two swimmers seemed to panic when one slipped in a trough, and the teacher, who’s also an experienced lifeguard, pulled them to safety, officials said. When she turned around, the remaining swimmer was gone — although she was last seen swimming in the chest-high water and not distressed, officials said. 

The teacher told bystanders to call 911 and searched the area where the girl was last seen until lifeguards arrived minutes later, officials said. First responders and volunteer on Jet Skis from a nearby rental stand searched the water, and others looked on the beach for the girl who last seen wearing a black and pink swimsuit. Efforts continued for more than five hours until sunset around 8:30 p.m., and the focus then turned toward recovering the girl’s body, officials said.

The presumed drowning would be the second along the seawall and third in Galveston waters this year, officials said.

Davis said the school was using a responsible plan to ensure safety. Each student had a buddy swimmer, and two teachers, one in shallow water and the other in deeper water, were watching the students, Davis said. 

However, the girl went missing in an area about three blocks from the nearest lifeguard stand, one of the few places on the seawall where there’s a longer stretch without one, Davis said. 

The girl’s class was seen leaving the area, many crying and visibly distraught, shortly after their classmate went missing.

“There’s nothing more heartbreaking than having a young kid drown, especially when they’re on a field trip,” Davis said. “We have this tendency to say that somebody did something wrong. I just don’t see that they acted irresponsibly.”  


Contact reporter Chacour Koop at 409-683-5241 or chacour.koop@galvnews.com.

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(9) comments

Dwight Burns

Prayers for the family and friends of the little girl.

Water safety is the number one factor which can insure a safe vacation around water.
Live vest should be worn by kids and seniors at beaches and lakes.

Rusty Schroeder

Prayers up, the teacher needs to be in jail, rip currents have been posted all week and on every news channel. KIPP Academy, says all I need to know. Teacher should be in jail without bond, imo.

Steve Lamb

I cannot believe the stupidity of adults who would take a group of students to an open beach to go swimming for a field trip, particularly in light of the rip tide warnings that have been going up. This is a completely preventable tragedy. Someone needs to go to jail for this. My prayers go out to the family. I cannot imagine what they must be going through right now.

Caron Walior

I read that beach patrol reported there were no rip tides yesterday, and although it was yellow flags yesterday, the water was pretty calm. It's a very sad tragedy. I agree that life vests for students on field trips would be a good idea, and not taking them to the ocean to swim an even better one. Even the chief of the beach patrol said the teachers acted responsibly and had a good plan in place, but unfortunately it wasn't enough.

Brad Brown

It is scary how fast something like that can happen. As a parent of young kids, I can't even imaging how distraught all involved must be.

Scott Toth

The first safety tip always mentioned by Chief Davis is to swim near a lifeguard. A beach patrol trained lifeguard, not a swimming pool lifeguard that has no idea about rip currents, sand bars, guts, jetties, waves, etc... A completely preventable tragedy and my heart goes out to the family, friends and classmates.

Lars Faltskog

Here's a question:

What purpose was the field trip? To learn about science in regard to the ocean, ocean life? Either way, probably the better choice by the field trip organizers would have been to have all those students swim in a more controlled environment - perhaps at Moody Garden's "Palm Beach", and time the field trip on a weekend when it's still open.

Could it be appropriate to question the judgment of these KIPP officials in making the decision to go to the beach during such a current tumultuous weather period in our state? How about a field trip where the students can learn something that can help with their cultural development? Heaven knows that kids nowadays need help in manners, social skills, etc. Charm schools are available in the area....that might be a good field trip choice!

Brad Guilick

Please quit pointing fingers. A child's life has been lost. That's all that matters right now.

Tamala Robinson

My heart goes out to the family of this missing child. My family and I were in the same predicament 2 years ago and I lost a close family member. We walked that beach day and night looking for him and his body washed up 2 days later. That was devastating and still is to lose such a young person in our family. My heart goes out to Chief Davis because he has experienced this over and over every year, not to mention his own family member. He is truly an amazing man and I thank him for all of his hard work including all of his staff. I know first hand that the beach patrol and coast guard does not stop even when they say the search is over for the night. Galveston waters may look calm, but people need to realize that at certain times of the day, the undercurrents are like a vacuum and will take you down and hold you there. I think the city needs to do more to reinforce this. The best of a swimmer will and can drown when the water is like this. You have water coming in from the bay and the gulf and when it is like that it is like a vacuum that will suck you under. I'm begging the city of Galveston to reinforce this for everyone so that people can be educated as for as what is going on beneath the shallow water that you see on top. You don't know when and where the water drops off. This is my prayer for all because I'm so tired of people drowning in Galveston. San Luis Pass is the worst place to swim and this portion of the beach should be closed off to swimmers. Over 30 people have died over several years at San Luis Pass. Education and enforcing the rules is the key.

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