Two swimmers entered the water late in the evening at the San Luis Pass. A strong outgoing tidal flow had already carved a steep drop-off. The falling tide was exacerbated by having to funnel through the gap between Galveston Island and Brazoria County.

A friend of the two people called 911 and a call went out to all the Galveston Marine Response partners. Weaving through crazy traffic, emergency workers made their way to the end of the island and across the flooding and sand.

A beach patrol unit arrived and spotted a man struggling to stay afloat about 100 yards from shore. A lifeguard powered out to him on a rescue board and made contact before the man went under.

While he paddled the man to safety, the other lifeguard noticed a head close to a mile out in the ocean. Galveston fire and police gathered witness information, and Jamaica Beach Fire and Rescue pulled up with their “Sea Legs” boat.

This is an incredible piece of equipment. A boat with wheels that can retract once it gets in the water. It’s great for shallow water and also for beach launching. Unlike the Jet Skis that the beach patrol relies on so heavily, it has lights and can run at night.

As Jamaica Beach prepped the boat, the rescue groups figured out that there were two people missing. The lifeguard kept an eye on the head he’d spotted as it bobbed even farther from shore, while another guard jumped in with the Jamaica Beach boat. It was almost dark.

The boat got to the victim after what felt like a lifetime and radioed that they’d rescued one person. A short time after they spotted and saved another. This was the last call of an incredibly busy weekend for all of us.

Overall, rough water, strong rip currents, large crowds and flooding made for a busy weekend, which culminated in medical response to a shooting and the joint rescue with Jamaica Beach Fire/Rescue of three at the San Luis Pass.

The Galveston Police Department-run Park Board Security Program did a great job at the parks, and the Galveston Police Department managed huge crowds all over the island like the pros they are. We had several after-hours calls that we worked with our Galveston Marine Response partner agencies. There was one near drowning (drowning that was survived) transported to the John Sealy Emergency Room, but no drowning fatalities.

By the time the dust cleared over the four-day weekend, we’d made 20,163 preventive actions (removing beach patrons and swimmers from dangerous areas/situations), enforced around 200 city ordinances and park rules, reunited 13 children with their parents working with GPD/Park Board Security and made seven rescues. We also made 60 medical responses, including the gunshot.

No drowning fatalities is a huge thing on a weekend like this. We couldn’t have done that without all the help and support from the Wave Watchers, Survivor Support Network, County Emergency Response Team, beach park staff, Coastal Management crews, media, National Weather Service and our partner agencies in public safety.

Peter Davis is chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol. The views in this column are Davis’ and do not necessarily represent those of the Beach Patrol, Galveston Park Board of Trustees or any other entity.


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(2) comments

Bailey Jones

They don't pay you guys enough.

Jim Forsythe

Peter is the “Sea Legs” boat a piece of equipment that you need more of? If so, how many and cost?

Galveston is fortunate to have you and your leadership to keep us as safe as possible when we go to the beach.

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