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.”