June 12, 2016
SMART responded to Braunig Lake Park at the request of the San Antonio Fire Department, to assist in the recovry of a male who had dissapeared while kayaking the night before. The victim surfaced and was recovered by officers with Texas Parks and Wildlife as divers were preparing to enter the water.
May 26, 2016
SMART responded to the area of Cotton Gin RD, Kyle, Texas, at the request of the Hays County Sheriffs Department to assist in the recovery of a body found in a stock pond.
May 13, 2016
SMART assisted the Guadalupe County Sheriffs Department with a search for a weapon that was used in a homicide.
August 7, 2015
SMART responded to Canyon Lake after a 15 year old boy was seen struggling in the water and disappeard below the surface. The victim was attempting to swim from the bank near Jacobs Creek Park to a floating structure on the lake when according to witnesses he appeard to become distressed. The victim was located and recovered in a night diving operation by SMART Divers in approximately 14 feet of water. Canyon Lake Fire/EMS was on scene with their boat and their help was instrumental in the search effort and recovery.
August 2, 2015
SMART was requested by the Converse Police Department to assist with the recovery of a vehicle from a stock pond. The vehicle was occupied when it entered the water and there was one victim recovered by local Fire/EMS personnel.
July 22, 2015
SMART responded to the San Marcos River near Rio Vista Park in reference to a possible drowning. The victim was an 86 year old male who became seperated from his tube while floating on the San Marcos River. The victim was located by a bystander snorkeling in the area as we arrived on scene. SMART recovered the victim at approximately 12:30pm with the assistance of San Marcos Fire Department, San Marcos/Hays County EMS, San Marcos Park Rangers, and the bystander who initially located the victim.
September 17, 2014
The San Marcos Area Recovery Team responded to San Antonio to recover a 25 year old male who drowned in the San Antonio River in Espada Park. The victim was located in approximatly 8 feet of water.
The incident occured the night before we responded. Witness report the victim swam out in to the river while allegedly evading officers with SAPD after a minor car accident. Approximately half way across the river, the victim became distressed and went underwater. The San Antoino Fire Department conducted a search following the incident and were unable to locate the victim due to the depth of the water and limited visibility. The victim was recovered by SMART divers at 11:33 am.
August 9. 2014
The San Marcos Area Reovery Team and South Hays Fire Dept. were dispatched to the San Marcos River in Martindale near Spring River Rd to search for the remains of a 20 year old Lake Jackson man witnesses reported going missing while tubing earlier in the afternoon. Divers searched the area all night with the assistance of Chisolm Trail VFD's Swiftwater Rescue Team, Martindale FD, and a K-9 search team from TEXSAR.
The search was temporarily suspended at 0530 the next morning to relieve exhausted crews and bring on additional personnel, and the body of the missing swimmer was located shortly after. Alcohol is belived to be a factor.
July 24, 2014
The San Marcos Area Recovery Team assisted a San Antoinio man in the search for a missing prosthetic leg in the San Marcos River near Martindale. After a brief search, the very expensive prosthetic was located and returned to the owner.
February 14, 2014
The San Marcos Area Recovery Team was present to assist South Hays Fire Dept. along with Hays County and Caldwell County Emergency Management, TCEQ, Chisolm Trail FIre Dept, San Marcos Fire Dept, and others in the recovery of an 18 whealer that rolled off the bridge at the low water crossing on Old Bastrop Highway near Hwy 80.
At approximately 0645 the morning of the 14th an 18 whealer carying twenty 2200lb bags of rubber pellets rolled off the bridge and landed upside down in the San Marcos River. The driver was extricated by San Marcos FD and transported by San Marcos/Hays County EMS and is in critical condition. SMFD responded additionaly with the San Marcos/Hays County HAZMAT apparatus to contain diesel fuel and oil products leaking in to the river, and to contain the bags of material and prevent their entry in to the environment.
A 250 ton crane was brought in and SMART was able to assist in the rigging and removal of the material handling bags that were out side the reach of Swift Water Rescue Techs from Chisolm Trail and South Hays. The operation took approximately 20 hours.
January 17, 2012
A 62 year old Houston man was recovered by San Marcos divers in a stream on a private ranch near Harwood in Gonzales County today at 2:40pm.
The man was said to be working as a ranch hand on the property and was familiar with the area. He told friends he was going to drive down to the water, a natural spring on the ranch, yesterday afternoon. He was reported missing at 7pm last night when he failed to return to the household. His truck was found parked near the water. The stream was formed by natural springs on the property and one are of the stream had been intentionally enlarged to form a swimming hole.
Divers with the San Marcos Area Recovery Team were called in to search this morning and initially concentrated their search efforts in the larger swimming hole area. Divers entered the water at 12:30pm and performed search patterns in the 57 degree water but were unable to find the man after two hours of searching. Additional search patterns were performed downstream from the swimming hole and the man’s body was discovered fully clothed submerged in 5 feet of water at 2:40pm.
The Justice of the Peace for Gonzales County has ordered an autopsy.
This was the first operation for SMART Divers in 2012.
May 7, 2012
The body of 68 year old Arthur Vogt from Atascosa who went missing from his boat Sunday afternoon around 2:30 pm on Choke Canyon Reservoir has been recovered this afternoon at 2:28pm. Vogt was on his boat with his wife and grandchild when wind blew off a hat he was wearing, Vogt stopped his boat to retrieve his hat when he fell overboard, his wife threw him a flotation device and tried to reach for him with a gaff on board but he submerged in the lake and did not re-surface.
Divers from the San Marcos Area Recovery Team were requested late Sunday and joined the Live Oak County Sheriff's Department and Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Wardens when the search resumed Monday morning at around 8:30 am. The search area consisted of a large area that was approximately 1/2 mile long by 200 yards wide. TPW Game Wardens brought in a boat this morning with a boat mounted Side Scan Sonar unit in attempts to narrow the search area. Due to the large area and no good last seen point by witnesses, divers were on stand by waiting for a viable target location via sonar to conduct and underwater search. SMART had delayed putting divers in the water due to the large search area, entanglement hazards and local alligator presence in the reservoir.
At approximately 2:00 pm Sonar located a target, two SMART divers entered the water and successfully recovered Mr. Vogt at approximately 2:28 this afternoon in 13 feet of water with a 79 degree water temperature.
The San Marcos Area Recovery Team would like to thank the Live Oak County Sheriff's Department, TPW Game Wardens, Texas State Park Police, the Three Rivers Volunteer Fire Department, Acadian Ambulance Service, and the Texas Department of Public Safety Helicopter for their assistance and operational support in the recovery efforts for Mr. Vogt. The team would also like to offer our most heartfelt condolences and sympathy for Mr. Vogt's family and friends in the wake of this tragic accident.
Sunday, August 30th, 2009 – Canyon Lake, Texas
SMART was contacted by Comal County Sherriff’s department and Texas Parks and Wildlife Game wardens to assist in the search and presumed drowning of a 20 year old female, Morgan Clark who went missing off of a 22 foot Blue Wave boat driven by 68 year old Robert Gilson. Reports state that around 6:30 pm Gilson, Clark and another occupant were thrown from the boat when it jumped its own wake while pulling a ski-tube. Gilson was not wearing a tether that would have killed the engine when he went overboard. The craft circled and hit him, severely injuring his left arm, and Clark then ran aground near Little Jacob’s Creek on Canyon Lake. None of the boat occupants were wearing life jackets. Clark did not resurface; Gilson was airlifted to University Hospital. Another passenger, whose name was not known by the search team, was taken to Christus Santa Rosa Hospital. Two people riding in a tube being towed by the boat were not injured. SMART Divers joined the search on Monday after divers from New Braunfels Fire Department searched without success. Due to a large search area and no definite last seen point, diving was suspended. The search continued with boat mounted side scan sonar, and air searches from a small plane. SMART then rented high resolution, towable, side scan sonar from the Houston area to continue searching in 80-100 feet of water in the search area. With the limited time of the sonar rental available, SMART had to suspend scanning and subsequently diving due to no viable target locations. At 10:30 am Saturday, September 5th Morgan’s body re-surfaced and was recovered.
SMART would like to offer thanks to all agencies involved and assisting the team in this operation: South Hays, Canyon Lake and New Braunfels Fire Departments, The Comal County Sherriff’s Department, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Wardens. Also, our sympathy and condolences go out to the family and friends of the victim of this tragic event.
Regrettably, SMART was unable to continue utilizing Side Scan Sonar in the search for Ms. Clark, due to rental constraints for the unit. SMART is a volunteer organization funded by donations. SMART is actively requesting tax deductible donations to aid us in continued operations and funding to purchase a Side Scan Sonar.
September 28-29, 2009 - Canyon Lake, Texas
At 18:30 Hours on September 28th, 2009 SMART was contacted by Comal County Sherriff’s Department to assist in the search and recovery of a 24 year old San Antonio man. The victim was with friends at Overlook Park on the South side of Canyon Dam, when he jumped into the water from shore holding onto a female friend. At approximately 18:10 both subjects jumped from a rock on shore to approximately a five foot drop into the water below. The female surfaced in distress and friends entered the water to retrieve her but the male victim, by witness statements, did not re-surface. A 911 call was placed to the Sheriff’s Department at 18:15. Deputies and Texas Parks and Wildlife game Wardens responded to the scene.
SMART Captain Jason Hedrick arrived at Overlook Park at 19:30 and began information gathering from Deputies, Park Rangers, and Game Wardens. At approximately 20:00 SMART Divers Steven Cummings and Homer Martinez arrived at Overlook Park. Due to low light conditions, steep and treacherous shore access, the decision was made to re-locate to Canyon Lake Boat Ramp 1 off Skyline Drive. Once units were re-located, Divers Cummings and Martinez assembled dive gear for the operation. Divers and gear were loaded onto TPW boat and taken via boat to the Last Seen Point. Divers entered the water at 21:00 and a parallel search pattern commenced. Dive profile: Dive Time: 27 minutes, Max Depth: 55 ffw, Water Temp at depth: 68° F. Visibility with Dive Lights reported to be 6’-8’. Dive operations were suspended after this dive due to late hour and limited visibility for continued safe operations.
Dive Operations resumed the following morning with units meeting back at Boat Ramp 1. SMART Captain Hedrick and Diver Daniel Combs suited up for the operation with Lieutenant Don White, accompanying for support, boarded the TPW Boat. Divers entered the water at the Last Seen Point from TPW Boat at 10:40. A parallel search was once again utilized starting at 100 ffw moving shallower at approximately five foot increments for subsequent passes. The victim was located 23 minutes into the dive at 11:03 in 63 ffw with a water temperature of 60° F. The victim was brought to the surface safely and brought on board the TPW Game Warden boat and secured in a Body Bag. Divers were recovered from the water and the boat returned to Boat Ramp 1 where the dive operation was terminated. The Presiding Justice of the Peace responded to the scene and made pronouncement of the victim and the body was released to a local funeral home for transport.
The San Marcos Area Recovery Team would like to thank all team members who responded and were available for this operation, the South Hays Fire Department personnel for their assistance and support, Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Wardens for their assistance and boat operations, US Army Corps of Engineers Park Rangers for their assistance and facilities, and the Comal County Sheriff’s Department for their manpower and assistance. As always our most heartfelt sympathy and condolences go out to the family and friends of the victim.
February 21st, 2008 – Guadalupe River, New Braunfels, Texas - A 20-year-old male went missing and was presumed drowned early February 20th. The male and three other people were near the river and allegedly the subject of a New Braunfels Police investigation. New Braunfels Fire Department initiated a river search when summoned by NBPD when the man went missing in the river. Divers from the San Marcos Area Recovery Team were requested the next afternoon to conduct and underwater search of the area the man was last seen in as well as areas downstream. Along with New Braunfels Police and Fire, Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Wardens were involved as well as helicopter support from Austin Police Department. Divers from SMART located the body of the missing male at 4:15 pm in approximately seven feet of water, about 25 feet from the river’s South shore. The San Marcos Area Recovery Team would like to offer condolences to the family and friends of the victim, and offer thanks to all the departments and agencies involved for their assistance in the search and recovery.
Sunday July 21st – Lake Dunlap, Guadalupe County, Texas – SMART was called upon by the Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Department to assist in recovery of a 21 year old male. With the assistance of Lake Dunlap VFD, Lake McQueeny VFD, City of Schertz EMS, and TPW Game Wardens, divers recovered the victim. Kyle Alan Ritcheske of the Houston area was swimming with three friends when he went under water and did not come up, Guadalupe County Cpl. John Batey said. Authorities responded at 1:30 p.m. for a possible drowning but were unable to locate Ritcheske until divers from the San Marcos Area Recovery Team pulled his body from the water more than two hours later. Ritcheske and his three friends had rented a house on Lake Dunlap, on the northwest border of Guadalupe County near New Braunfels, for the weekend. Batey said Rithcheske had a medical history of seizures that could have caused the drowning. “We believe that’s the major factor, that he possibly had a seizure,” Batey said. Video From KSAT 12 News San Antonio
Monday July 28th – Canyon Lake, Comal County, Texas - A teenage boy drowned at the Fort Sam Houston Recreation Area at Canyon Lake. The 15-year-old victim Jerry Madrigal, of San Antonio, was found at 1:49 p.m. by emergency responders, according to a news release from the Comal County Sheriff's Department. Emergency dispatchers received a call about noon from somebody who said the boy had been underwater for 10 minutes, but hadn't resurfaced, according to the release. Officers from the sheriff's office, Texas Parks and Wildlife wardens, Canyon Lake emergency responders and the U.S. Corps of Engineers responded to the scene, and the San Marcos Area Recovery Team was also called out to assist, but was found prior to SMART arrival from the surface. Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Jennifer Saunders pronounced the boy’s death an accidental drowning at 2 p.m.
Saturday June 9th, 2007 – Canyon Lake, Comal County, Texas - At 4:37pm the Comal County Sheriff’s Office Communication Center received a telephone call of a possible drowning. The victim was last seen swimming approximately 100 yards away from the swim beach area off the point of Comal Park on the South side of Canyon Lake to a small island when he was last seen. Officers from the Comal County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Parks and Wildlife Wardens and U.S. Corp of Engineers responded to the scene. In addition the SMART (San Marcos Area Rescue Team) Divers were called to respond for assistance in locating the subject. At approximately 7:57pm the SMART divers located the victim in the area he was last seen in 10-15 feet of water 50-100 yards from the swim beach. Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 Jennifer Saunders was called to scene. Judge Saunders pronounced the victim deceased at 8:45pm as a cause of accidental drowning. No autopsy was ordered. The victim has been identified. He is a Hispanic male 52 years of age from California currently living in San Antonio for the last couple of years. The name is not being released at this time until the next of kin in Mexico has been notified.
Sunday July 08, 2007 – Blanco River, San Marcos/Kyle, Texas - At approximately 7:00pm Hays County Sheriff Office received information of a possible drowning at Randal Vetter Park on the Blanco River 3950 Old Stagecoach Rd in Kyle, Texas. Hays County Sheriff’s Officers, Kyle Fire Department, San Marcos Fire Department, the San Marcos Area Recovery Team (SMART), and the Texas Department of Public Safety conducted a search of the area. A Hispanic male identified as 18-year-old Jose Isidro Sierra-Avalos of Buda was swimming with friends. Witnesses stated that the male went farther into the river and disappeared. The search was conducted until approximately 10:00pm when darkness and bad weather caused the search to be suspended. The search resumed early Monday morning on July 09, 2007 and along with the responding units from Sunday evening, was joined by the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). At approximately 2:30pm a DPS Helicopter observed what they thought was a possible body in the river. A Diver with San Marcos Area Recovery Team was able to locate the body of the Hispanic male in the Blanco River. Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 Judge Beth Smith pronounced the male deceased at 3:10pm and an autopsy was ordered. On Sunday at the time Sierra-Avalos disappeared the Blanco at Kyle was flowing at 584 cfs; by the time his body was found the next day it had dropped to 537 cfs. On Thursday afternoon, according to U.S.G.S. gauges, it was flowing at 381 cfs.
September 2007 – Milam County, Texas, Little River - SMART was contacted by the Milam County Sheriff’s Department to assist in the search the Little River in Milam County to try to find a trace of James Mollica, 53, of Cameron, who has been missing since July 1. Authorities think Mollica may have accidentally driven his pickup truck into the rain-swollen river. Sheriff’s deputies, game wardens, divers from the San Marcos Area Recovery Team, and boat and top-side support from the South Hays Fire Department spent the day Friday September 7th searching for Mollica’s truck. Using a side-scan sonar device, the teams identified two potential areas of interest, but the current was too swift for divers to be able to determine what was in those areas. The search was called off Friday evening. Authorities have been looking for a trace of Mollica and his truck since the missing man’s wife called the Milam County Sheriff’s Office early on July 1 report that her husband had failed to meet her as planned in Thorndale the night before. Mollica was driving a black 1993 extended cab Ford pickup with Texas license TX 6HBP98. SMART returned to the Little River again on September 19th, 2007 but were again hampered by high water levels and swift current. The Army Corps of Engineers closed the floodgates upstream from Lake Belton, to lower the water level and flow in the search area a week later and the vehicle and Mr. Mollica was found prior to SMART’s arrival for a third day of operations on October 1, 2007. Video 1 & Video 2 from KCEN NBC News channel 6 in Waco, Texas.
In 2006 the San Marcos Area Recovery team did not conducted any recovery operations, this was attributed to extreme drought conditions in the lakes and rivers of Central Texas.
November 30, 2005
Divers search Canyon Lake By ANITA MILLER -News Editor San Marcos Daily Record
Search teams plan to return to Canyon Lake today to resume the search for a San Antonio man presumed drowned on Wednesday. Gerard John Celitans, 68, disappeared while attempting to swim to shore after being knocked off the 26-foot sailboat he and his wife Barbara had launched near Randolph Recreation Area, said Captain Dan Misiaszek of the San Marcos Area Rescue Team (SMART). Wednesday's search was mainly above water, and that effort will continue today. Tomorrow, the SMART team plans to bring in specialized equipment to search an area roughly the size of two football fields. Misiaszek said the Celitans launched their boat around noon on Wednesday but soon realized the water was too rough, with waves up to three feet high. Somewhere between the island at Comal Park and the Randolph Recreation Area they decided to turn it around.
“When they were turning the boat around, one of the ropes came loose and Gerard was knocked off the boat by the boom,” Misiaszek said. “His wife saw him swimming in the water while she regained control of the boat. She threw him a jacket but the winds were strong and she was unable to reach her husband. He was last seen swimming toward the shore somewhere between the Yacht Club and the Randolph Recreation Area. She called 911 while she was still on the boat and after she had lost sight of her husband.” He said Barbara Celitans accompanied the search team on a boat to better determine the area where her husband went down.
“After our interview with her, we had a grid search of about eight football fields, far too big to place divers in the water. We brought in our K9s and narrowed the search area to about two football fields. We plan on bringing in a digital side scan sonar on Friday and spend the day searching. If we find a likely target, divers will go in the water on Saturday.” He said the lake is between 18 and 70 feet deep in the probable search area. Assisting in the search are the South Hays Fire Department, the Comal County Sheriff's Department, Game Wardens, Park Rangers and the Army Corp of Engineers.
September 8,2005 - Law Enforcement Evidence Recovery Operation
Conroe, Texas - Details of this operation are not available at this time for public release.
August 17, 2005 - Divers search for missing man in Recreational Area.
23 year old Venancio Sanchez was fishing with his nephew at LakeWood Recreational Area outside of Gonzales when he was swept away by currents. Sanchez's nephew was wearing a life jacket and was also swept down river below the dam when both attempt to wade across the river. The nephew was able to reach shore and call authorities to report his uncle missing. SMART searched the San Marcos River bed at Lake Wood Recreational Area late into the evening until calling the search due to darkness. Early the next morning before putting divers back in the water, a topside boat and shoreline search discovered Sanchez body in a debris field approximately 200 yards down stream from where he was last seen.
July 29, 2005 - Search for missing woman in Hays County
SMART K-9 handlers and topside search teams assisted the Hays County Sheriff's Department along Ranch Road 12 near the Freeman Ranch to search for a missing Wimberley woman. Margaret Wilson White, 58, was last seen by her family July 20, according to Sgt. Allen Bridges, spokesman for the Hays County Sheriff's Office.
Her gray Chrysler mini-van was found Monday night along Ranch Road 12 past the Freeman Ranch, but the woman wasn't in it. The minivan had possibly been parked at the spot about a quarter mile west of County Road 213 (Freeman Ranch Road) since July 21. He body was found 400 yards from the roadway and autopsy later determined she died from two snake bites.
July 4, 2005 - San Antonio boy drowns at Canyon Lake
For the second time in two days SMART Divers returned to Canyon Lake to search for missing swimmers. Technicians spent 5 hours on the lake operating the SSS before returning to the office to analyze the data. At 3pm the dive team was again called out to the lake for a missing swimmer at Comal Park. Julian Bocanegra, age 14, from San Antonio entered the water at Comal Park in an attempt to rescue his 9 year old brother whom was in distress and calling for help. The 9 year old brother was rescued by a good Samaritan however Julian Bocanegra drowned attempting to save his brother. SMART Divers were called at 3pm, put 6 divers in the water in teams of two, and recovered Julian's body in 74 feet of water at 4:06pm .
July 3, 2005 - SMART uses a Side Scan Sonar (SSS) in lake search.
On what began as a training day for SMART, turned into a search operation at Canyon Lake when a 35 year old woman did not return to her boat during a midnight swim with two companions near Overlook Park. Divers, support team members, and K-9 handlers were scheduled to be at Canyon lake to test and evaluate a side scan sonar for possible purchase. The SSS was put into practical use to search for the woman. Her body floated approximately two weeks later nearly 2 miles from the original search area.
June 30, 2005 - Divers search for a missing British tourist in Mexico
Five members of SMART boarded a flight in San Antonio for a recovery operation in southeast Chiapas, Mexico. The team was searching for the body of a British tourist who has been missing 16 days, and his body was believed to be somewhere in a 75-foot deep pool at the base of a "multi-tiered waterfall" at Aqua Azul. A bilingual SMART team member served as an interpreter, and the team's cadaver-sniffing dog also made the trip. The tourist was last seen at the top of the falls, directly above a sump cavern known as the "Liqudora", a 30 foot wide, 70 foot deep cavern. This was one of the most physically and technically challenging dives ever performed by SMART. The surface current and downward water flow was extreme, however at depth the water is very calm. After a 22 minute underwater search, SMART concluded the victim was not inside the cavern. Search efforts were abandoned at the falls and local officials now focused the search down river from the falls. VIDEO
June 6, 2005 - Topside Technicians search for infant in landfill
After receiving a request for assistance from the Williamson County Sheriff's Department, SMART Tech's search a landfill for an infant believed to have discarded at birth in Taylor. Ten members of SMART searched with cadaver dogs for 6 hours to find possible evidence. The search ended at 5pm. This case is still under investigation in Williamson County.
May 19, 2005 - SMART K-9 requested by San Marcos PD
After some bone pieces were found by the Blanco River, one of SMART's cadaver K9 dogs is requested by San Marcos PD detectives to determine if any of the bone fragments were human. K9 Handler Kevin Roles reported that his dog "Bok" showed no interest in the bones which concluded the bones were that of an animal.
April 21, 2005 - TSU Student drowns at falls
Jason Lee Bonnin, a 22-year-old Texas State University-San Marcos student drowned Thursday night, April 21, in the San Marcos River at the spillway adjacent to Joe's Crab Shack restaurant. According to reports from the University Police Department, Bonnin and three other employees of Joe's Crab Shack were jumping from the deck railing after the restaurant had closed. The four male employees jumped once and returned to the deck to make a second jump. Bonnin did not surface after the second jump. UPD 911 was called at 10:57 p.m. and university police personnel responded to the scene immediately. Subsequently, San Marcos Fire Department and the San Marcos Area Recovery Team were also called. Bonnin's body was recovered by the San Marcos Area Recovery Team at 12:47 a.m. An autopsy has been ordered and will be conducted by the Travis County Medical Examiner's Office. Bonnin was a senior at Texas State majoring in finance and is from Sugar Land, Texas.
Video courtesy of News 8 Austin
March 11, 2005 - Suspect vehicle recovered
Battling very strong river currents, SMART Divers returned to the Blanco Crossing subdivision outside of Kyle to recover a Mazda 626 which had been used by a man charged with multiple felony offenses. Divers documented the vehicle with underwater photography before removing the vehicle from the water. A knife, keys, and video tapes were found on the front floorboards. The vehicle was in neutral and the ignition keys were found in the "ON" position. Photos and Video below by Dan Misiaszek.
March 10, 2005 - Vehicle Investigation
SMART investigates a submerged vehicle possibly used in a aggravated felony offense near Kyle, Texas. Full details of this operation are not for public release pending the outcome of the criminal investigation. (Photos enhanced for clarity)
February 20, 2005 - Training
Using aluminum foil to obstruct the divers vision and create a zero visibility black water environment, SMART Divers practiced search patterns with ropes while searching for a .44 magnum handgun in a simulated underwater crime scene.
January 22, 2005 - Vehicle Recovery
Divers with the San Marcos Area Recovery Team investigated a submerged 1994 Jeep Cherokee upside down in the Blanco River outside Wimberley on Saturday morning. SMART Divers was requested by the Hays County Environmental Health Code Officer Bobby Douglas to remove the vehicle which was ¼ mile upstream from FM 1492 next to River Road. The topside investigation determined a 17 year old male driver lost the vehicle upstream at a private low water crossing during flash flooding in October of 2004. The driver swam to shore uninjured but there was a delay in notifying authorities about the incident. The code officer became involved when neighbors along river road noticed the vehicle in the Blanco River and became concerned about possible environmental damage from petroleum products. Since there were no injuries and the history of the vehicle was known, SMART took the opportunity to use the vehicle for diver training and sent in three teams of divers to investigate. Divers used underwater video and digital cameras to record the dives and critique the operation. SMART put a total of 8 divers in the water in three teams accompanied by 6 topside support personnel monitoring the live video feed to the surface.
September 18, 2004 - Divers with the San Marcos Area Recovery Team (SMART) recovered the body of 19 year old William Charles Franklin off the shores of Comal Park on Canyon Lake late Saturday night. Franklin, who has a last known address in California and family in San Antonio, was swimming with friends at Comal Park between the two Islands near an area commonly referred to as ”The Point”. According to witnesses, Franklin was swimming between the islands at approximately 6:15pm, when he began calling for help and thrashing in the water. Two friends attempted a rescue but were unable to keep Franklin above the water. The Comal County Sheriff’s Department was called at 6:31pm and SMART was notified shortly after. After arriving on scene and interviewing witnesses, SMART put two divers in the water at 9PM. Both divers carried high intensity discharge lights to conduct the underwater search. Divers located Franklin in 23 feet of water, 50 yards from shore, at 9:09pm, only 9 minutes after the search began. SMART was assisted by the Comal County Sheriff’s Department, Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Wardens, Canyon Lake Fire Department, and the US Army Corp of Engineers.
September 4, 2004 - When two 16 year old youths attempt to cross the Blanco River in the City of Blanco between 5th Street and River Road, one of the youths calls for help in the middle of the river. The second youth tries unsuccessfully to save his friend. SMART is called in at 6:25PM and finds the body of David Henry Willhoite within two hours in 7 feet of water, and 100 feet from shore.
July 28, 2004 - SMART was called to the Blanco River near the Blanco State Park to recover physical evidence that was thrown into the river by a robbery suspect. Details of this operation are not for public release pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.
July 12-13, 2004 - SMART was called on July 13th to look for a 19 year old male who had been swimming in the Guadalupe River over to friends near a rope swing. The water was moving to swiftly for any type of operation on the first night as the water from the dam was moving at almost 5,000 cubic feet a second out of the Canyon Dam. The Army Corp of Engineers turned down the flow to just under 200 cubic feet a second to help the team in our recovery operation. The second day Star Flight out of Austin came to search the river, and two K-9 dog teams trained on human scent were used on the banks of the river and on boats to try and locate the victim. Divers made several attempts to locate the victim, but operations were called off after an exhausting day of searching. See Video
July 5, 2004 - SMART recovered the body of 41 year old man from the Blanco River after the man was pulled under the low water crossing bridge at Blanco State Park. The victim was paddling an inflatable raft when he was pulled under the roadway in a siphon and did not surface on the down river side of the road. His wife was also pulled under the roadway but managed to surface down river and was assisted to shore by witnesses. For the first time at a recovery SMART used a new K-9 cadaver dog named “Bok”, a German Shepard trained on human scent. Divers were in the water for 47 minutes before the recovery was made in 5 feet of water, 212 feet down river from the low water crossing. SMART put three divers in the water to search supported by eight topside personnel with the South Hays Fire Department. See Photos
June 27, 2004 - SMART was requested by officials in Mexico through the National Park Service in Del Rio, TX to a town 20 miles across the Mexico border to recover a 6 year old child who had drowned. While responding, SMART was cancelled due family members finding the victim while they were free diving into the water. This was the SMART team's first out of country response.
June 13, 2004 - SMART responded to the area between Vetter Park and Dudley Johnson Park off Stage Coach road near Kyle to search for a missing swimmer at a popular park, which is more commonly referred to as Five Mile Dam. According to witnesses, the victim was swimming in the rapids and was pulled downstream before disappearing below the water. SMART initially put 3 divers in the water performing diagonal patterns from shore line to shore line when the Kyle Fire Chief saw the body in an eddy near shore. Divers were directed to the area and the victim was recovered in 8 feet of water, 20 feet from shore, and 350 feet down stream from where he originally went into the water. See Photos.
June 12, 2004 - Divers from the San Marcos Area Recovery Team were called to the WOODCREEK I Golf Course in Wimberley, Texas to recover a 2003 VW Jetta from a pond. The owner of the Jetta forgot to set the parking brake and the Jetta rolled off a 40 foot cliff into 12 feet of water. SMART divers spent about two hours in the water on Saturday evening recovering the vehicle. See Photos.
May 29-30, 2004 - A 54 year old San Antonio man walking to a small island off of Comal Park in Canyon Lake unknowingly steps off a steep underwater shelf that has depths of up to 115 feet. The victim was not wearing a life jacket, and could not swim well. SMART divers were called out Saturday night to the location. A single dive was completed that night, and operations stopped until the next day. Sunday morning the dive team regrouped and utilized the STAR Flight helicopter for assisting in a search. On the second dive of the day, SMART divers found the victim in 24 feet of water about 150 feet off shore. See Photos.
April 9, 2004 - SMART is called to try and recover a 16 foot fishing boat near the Cypress Cove Boat Ramp at Canyon Lake that had sunk 3 weeks prior. The owner of the boat accidentally forgot to replace the drain plugs before its use, and the boat sank. The owner of the boat was rescued by nearby fishermen that had a kayak. After several attempts, SMART divers were unable to locate the boat. See Photos.
May 31, 2003 Luling man drowns in San Marcos River The body of a 34-year old Luling man was recovered from the San Marcos River Friday by the San Marcos Area Recovery Team. The victim was identified as 34-year old Danny Garza of Luling. The family was present during the recovery, said SMART Commander Dan Misiaszek. According to family and witnesses at the scene, Garza was swimming under the 90E bridge with two cousins. He dove in from the bank and began swimming toward a bridge pillar in the center of the river. He became distressed and called for help approximately 40 yards from the bank.
Before witnesses could summon help, Garza disappeared below the water. Bystanders entered the water and did some free dives to the bottom of the river searching for the missing man. When they were unsuccessful, emergency personnel were called to the scene and SMART was called in for the search and recovery. Divers entered the water downstream from the search area just after 5 p.m. On the second sweep of the search pattern, the victim was located in 10 feet of water directly under the bridge. Divers Don White, John Moseley, Ian Rosen, and Dan & Kathy Misiaszek recovered the body. Water visibility at the recovery site was less than one foot, and divers encountered fishing lines, several water moccasins, heavy silt, and underwater obstructions. The victim was lying on this back with no noted entanglement. "SMART divers have never in our history had this many recoveries from area rivers in such a short period of time. This is our third drowning victim body recovery in 35 days, since Easter Sunday," said Misiaszek."
The previous two drownings occurred in the Guadalupe River near Hueco Falls Recreation Area in Comal County. Misiaszek added, "This is gearing up to be a very busy summer for SMART Divers. This is peak season for water recreation - and consequently, prime time for water fatalities."
MAY 14, 2003 Houston man drowns in Guadalupe River; SMART divers recover body. NEW BRAUNFELS - A 32-year-old Hispanic male was recovered from the Guadalupe River today by the San Marcos Area Recovery Team (SMART) divers. The body of Jose Luis Larrazobal, age 32 , of Houston was recovered from the Guadalupe River near the Hueco Springs Recreation Area on River Road near New Braunfels at 4:25 p.m. The Houston Police Department has notified the next of kin.
The initial call to SMART Dive Team was made at 1:20 p.m. shortly after first responders from the Comal County Sheriff's Department arrived on the scene. SMART was called to the scene to recover the body. SMART team members Wade Parham, Don White and John Moseley, were joined by SMART members Daniel and Kathy Misiaszek. The SMART divers were assisted by members of the Canyon Lake and New Braunfels Fire and EMS crews. Larrazobal and three friends, Alberto Ceja, Ciro Quintero, and Alvaro Hernandez , all from Houston, were canoeing in the Guadalupe River when the inflatable kayak Larrazobal was riding in overturned in a treacherous rocky area of the river amid heavy rapids. His friends said the victim did not know how to swim and was not wearing a personal flotation device. The men had rented the two inflatable kayaks from a local outfitter, and each kayak was equipped with personal floatation devices (life jackets). None of the men in the group was wearing a life jacket at the time of the accident.
When the inflatable kayak overturned, his canoe partner, Alvaro Hernandez attempted to save him and was dragged underwater several times. The other two canoers in their party also attempted to rescue Larrazobal but were unsuccessful. Witnesses say that one of the men stood on the bottom of the river, trying to hold the victim's head above water as others unsuccessfully attempted to rescue him. Witnesses say the other three men very nearly drowned in their rescue attempts. Larrazobal's body was recovered within 2 hours and ten minutes of the SMART divers arriving on the scene. The water temperature was 75 degrees and the visibility was approximately 3 to 4 feet at depth. The victim was found in fifteen feet of water, 25 to 30 feet from shore.
April 20, 2003 - Easter Sunday - San Antonio man drowns in Guadalupe River; SMART divers recover body
A 25-year-old Hispanic male was recovered from the Guadalupe River shortly before sunset on Easter Sunday by the San Marcos Area Recovery Team (SMART) divers. The body of Christopher Ybarra, 25, of San Antonio was recovered from the Guadalupe River near the Hueco Springs Recreation Area on River Road near New Braunfels at 7:32 p.m. Among the 250-300 bystanders in the park, approximately 50 members of Ybarra’s family were on the scene at the time of recovery. The initial 911 call was made at 6:04 p.m. after witnesses made several unsuccessful attempts to rescue the victim. The Comal County Sheriff’s Department, Canyon Lake Fire and EMS, New Braunfels Police were on the scene within minutes of the call. SMART was called to the scene to recover the body. SMART team members John Curnutt and Bob Klett were joined by SMART organizers Daniel and Kathy Misiaszek. The SMART divers were assisted by members of the Canyon Lake and New Braunfels Fire and EMS crews. Ybarra’s body was recovered within 32 minutes of the SMART divers arriving on the scene. The water temperature was 63 degrees and the visibility was approximately four feet. The victim was found in seven feet of water, 45 feet from shore.
November 24, 2002 -Divers bring sunken decks to lake's surface. Members of the San Marcos Area Recovery Team assisted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week by locating sunken docks in Canyon Lake. The docks had been damaged during recent flooding. SMART divers recovered docks at seven different locations on the lake. The recovery of the docks was part of an ongoing clean up project. "SMART does much more than assist law enforcement agencies with underwater crime scenes and recovery," said SMART diver Dan Misiaszek. "We also volunteer to do community projects such as this lake cleanup." With the use of a large crane, divers connected belts and hooks to raise the sunken and partially submerged docks. The damaged dock pieces were lifted onto a trailer and hauled away for repair or to be discarded. There were seven boat docks and gangways at seven separate locations that were damaged by flooding. Some had floated back to shore or came to rest on top of each other. "We ended up doing two snorkel dives and one scuba dive to assist in placing the winch straps on the gangways for the crane to lift. All the rest could be done wading or standing on the docks," said Misiaszek. There were no mishaps or problems reported during the cleanup. "Today's operation was a success," said Travis Motal, Army Corps of Engineers Park Ranger and operation coordinator. 02-1121-09.
August 3, 2002 - Recovery operation turns into live underwater rescue. 02-0803-08
16 year old survives underwater SCUBA rescue after being trapped beneath Cummings Dam (Hays County, Texas)
Read the STORY in the Austin American Statesman and San Marcos Daily Record.
See photographs in our Photo Gallery's Recovery Operations section.
See a FEATURED ARTICLE by William Hendryx in the April 2003 edition of Reader's Digest Magazine "Drama in real life - Swept Away" on this rescue of Dustin Kilgore.
July 21, 2002 - Under increasing pressure from residents and local businesses to reopen the Comal River to recreational activities after the 2002 flood, the City of New Braunfels calls SMART to survey a 1-1/2 miles stretch of the river for debris. "The city officials wanted to make sure the underwater area was free of large debris that could present an entanglement hazard to swimmers and tubers.". SMART Divers spent three hours in the water and video taped the riverbed while city officials with the Parks & Recreation Department watched on topside monitors. SMART removed some branches, broken PVC pipe, two lawn chairs, a broken mirror, and waterbed mattress from the area. See photographs in our Photo Gallery's Recovery Operations section. 02-0721-07
July 11, 2002 - The US Army Corp of Engineers at Canyon Lake call upon SMART to survey and inspect the flue area of the controlled release gates below the dam after the worst flooding in 45 years where water went over the spillway at the dam. This hydraulic action of the spillway combined with water being released from the flue cause a collapse of the rock and earth around the flue. There was damage as topside team members John and Tammy Moseley prepare underwater video and communication equipment. Divers Don White and Dan Misiaszek wearing full environmental protection dry suits and underwater communication gear entered the chocolate milk water to inspect the damage. Using an infrared Seaview Video Technology live feed video camera, the divers discovered a large amount of debris in the flue area that must be removed. In some areas the rocks, metal , and tree limbs are stacked over 12 feet high. See photographs in our Photo Gallery's Recovery Operations section. 02-0711-06
April 30, 2002 - In one of SMART's most successful dive operations to date, divers recovered a chrome .357 magnum from lake Braunig, a weapon which is believed to have been used in a recent capital murder at a Sac & Pac convenience store in San Antonio on April 21st. San Antonio Police homicide detectives contacted SMART to search an area of Lake Braunig in South East San Antonio off a pier where there investigation led them to believe the murder weapon had been discarded. Using underwater communications, video, and a metal detector, divers discovered the handgun in 15 feet of water, and 87 feet from the end of the dock. The search took 67 minutes before the chrome .357 handgun was found, preserved, and recovered. "This is one of our most successful operations ever. We combined infrared video technology, an underwater metal detector, and a standard search pattern in water as dark as chocolate milk. Visibility was absolute zero. We were able to find the needle in the hay stack and successfully recover a weapon used in a capital murder. The success of this operation speaks very highly of the dive team and its membership. San Antonio police detectives were very pleased with the find and recovery and further stated that a warrant for capital murder on the suspect is imminent. After the weapon was found, SMART divers marked the location with a floating marker while an evidence technician from the San Antonio police took pictures and measurements from the pier to the exact location of the gun. The gun was then sealed with the barrel positioned up in a water tight container and brought to the surface. Sealing the weapon in a water tight container prevents rust, preserves trace evidence, and reduces deterioration of the weapon if it had immediately exposed to air. "The weapon will be brought to a crime lab still sealed in the container where it will be removed and rapidly dried. The evidence technician will then process the gun for fingerprints and conduct ballistic testing. It is a common myth that finger prints, barrel contents, and gun powder residue are washed away in the water. This simply is not true. With proper handling and drying in a crime lab, physical evidence can still be recovered from the gun. 2002-0430-05 See photographs in our Photo Gallery's Recovery Operations section. **UPDATE: On Feb 20th 2003 Robert Espinoza was found guilty of Capital Murder and sentenced to life in prison.
March 7, 2002 - A fully loaded construction trailer being towed by a truck on Loop 337 in New Braunfels, flips off a 50 foot bridge during high winds and lands in the Guadalupe River below. The trailer is quickly recovered and SMART is called to recovery the trailer contents. Diving in 7 to 14 feet of water, divers recover tools, sheet metal screws, spools of wire, a ladder, and 40 metal sign panels sized 2 feet X 14 Feet each. See photographs in our Photo Gallery's Recovery Operations section. 2002-0307-03.
February 22, 2002 -On Thursday, February 20, 2002, Joseph P. Bustamante and his friends Susan Gerardo and Daniel and Fernando Reyna, all in their 20s, were boating on Canyon Lake when a cold front blew through and lashed the lake with choppy waves whipped up by 45 mph winds. The boat capsized in the middle of the lake, and the four clung to it, intending to ride with it as the wind blew the boat to shore. The boat’s dragging anchor was then caught on the craggy, tree-tangled bottom and stopped the boat just short of the shoreline. Bustamante didn’t manage the swim to shore. SMART is called to search for Bustamante near Comal Park. As the divers worked, Sheriff’s Patrol Capt. Ed Whitson and public affairs Cpl. Tim Kolbe monitored the situation from shore. Minutes after the search began, the news came over the sheriff’s radio net: “We have a recovery.” Kolbe said the divers had gotten on the water at 10:48 a.m. The recovery came at 11:23 a.m. in 35 feet of water, where Bustamante was found wedged between the cliff and an underwater tree where he had settled. 2002-0223-02 See photographs in our Photo Gallery's Recovery Operations section.
November 25, 2001 – A 40 year old San Antonio man driving on Hwy 281 in Spring Branch, looses control of his 2000 Nissan Pathfinder and strikes the bridge over the Guadalupe River. The vehicle overturns and falls 60 feet into the river rapids below. Witnesses find the unoccupied vehicle upside down in shallow rapids. The Comal County Sheriff’s Department and Spring Branch FD call SMART to search the Guadalupe River downstream from the accident. Using dry suits and underwater communications in the cold and swift water, the body of Phillip Joel Kranz was found by divers 300 yards downstream in 10 feet of water. 2001-1125-06
May 3, 2001 - When an 18 year old Seguin man failed to properly set the parking brake on his 1995 Ford Mustang, the vehicle travels down a boat ramp and into the Guadalulpe River in the Glen Cove residential subdivision. SMART is called to recover the vehicle and divers discover the current has taken the car 150 feet downstream from the entry point. Investigation determines the incident was accidental. See photographs in our Photo Gallery's Recovery Operations section. 2001-0503-04
April 7, 2001 - SMART takes home two awards for most bottles, and most unusual item, at the 20th annual Spring San Marcos River Clean Up sponsored by the Dive Shop and City Park & Rec department. A record breaking 1214 bottles were recovered by the team and SMART also recovered a large refrigerator. The refrigerator took the prize for the most unusual item, narrowly beating out a VCR containing a VHS tape of the Blair Witch Project recovered by another group. See photographs in our Photo Gallery's Recovery Operations section. 2001-0407-03
April 1, 2001 - 32 year old Austin man is reported missing after dark while swimming at the Martindale Dam in Guadalupe County. Martindale firefighters and a STAR Flight helicopter are deployed to search the area with the FLIR (Forward Looking InfraRed) and along the San Marcos river. SMART is notified and begins the underwater search at 8AM next morning. After thoroughly searching the large target area below the dam for six hours, the conclusion is reach that the missing man has traveled downstream in the strong currents. At 2:00PM a downstream search along the river banks is initiated with Texas game wardens deploying Kayaks in the river. At 2:30PM the body of Thomas Daugherty is found in a debris field near FM 1979, about 1.5 miles downstream from the initial search area. See photographs in our Photo Gallery's Recovery Operations section. 2001-0401-02
February 25, 2001 - The City of San Marcos Park & Recreation Division asked for SMART Divers help in repairing some dangerous holes in the Rio Vista Dam. Last year a young girl got her foot caught in one of the holes and she broke her foot. SMART surveyed the dam and built a temporary dam to divert water away from the main flow. Using quick dry cement specially designed for dam repairs, the holes were filled and tooled to leave a smooth surface. 2001-0225-01. See our Photo Gallery's Recovery Operations section for a picture of the dam repair in progress.
December 16, 2000 - SMART assisted the San Marcos Police Department with a kidnapping investigation by searching areas of the San Marcos river for a firearm. 2000-1216-10
October 8, 2000 - Press release - SMART cave divers penetrated into Jacob's Well as part of a research project with the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association to map and video tape the underwater spring. After penetrating over 300 feet in distance and 130 feet in depth, divers found the skeletal remains and diving equipment of a diver who is believed to be a man from Pasadena. Kent Maupin and Mark Brashiers were reported missing on September 9, 1979 while diving in Jacob's Well. Two years after the tragedy, the skull and some skeletal remains of Mark Brashiers were recovered after flood waters washed out some of his remains to the surface. Brashiers was positively identified through dental records but the body of Kent Maupin was never found. SMART cave divers discovered the skeletal remains and video taped the scene as part of the death investigation. As required by law upon the finding of human remains, SMART called the Hays County sheriff's department immediately after the dive and made a copy of the underwater video for the Sheriff's department's review. The 3 person topside support team included master diver Don Dibble, who was seriously injured in Jacob's Well attempting to recover the bodies of Brashier and Maupin in 1979. This has been a special victory and closure for Don, who has been a member of SMART Divers since 1988, and who assisted the team with his technical diving knowledge and past knowledge of the cave itself. A future dive is planned to recover the skeletal remains and deliver them to the medical examiners office for positive identification. SMART performed two additional dives into the cave over the next few days to recover all remains and SCUBA gear. This incident and recovery was the feature story in the March 2001 addition of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. 2000-1008-09
September 23, 2000 - a 14 year old boy on a pontoon boat with family members near North Park on Canyon Lake jumps into the water for a swim. Strong winds push the boat away from the boy and family members are unable to rescue him from the deep water. A massive search ensures with the Canyon Lake Fire Department, the Comal County Sheriff's Department, Army Corp of Engineers, Travis County Search and Rescue K-9's and SMART Divers. Divers search over hundreds of yards with underwater cameras and with the use of K-9's specially trained to locate cadavers. The longest continual search in SMART history ends disappointingly eight days later without locating the missing boy. His body was discovered floating near North Park by two fishermen on October 11th. See photographs in our Photo Gallery's Recovery Operations section. 2000-0923-08
September 20, 2000 - SMART assisted cave divers and documentary film makers with the National Geographic Society and The Discovery Channel in Ezel's Cave, here in San Marcos. The film makers are doing a documentary on the origin of life on earth and are exploring the theory that evolution began in subterranean caves. Some very small species were collected along with "cave ice" to be analyzed in laboratories at the University of Houston. See photographs in our Photo Gallery's Cave Diving section for a picture of the Texas Blind Salamander in Ezel's Cave. 2000-0920-07
September 4, 2000 - SMART is called to assist the Kingsbury Fire Department and the Guadalupe County Sheriff's Department in locating a missing 18 year old Luling man who was reported missing after 4 wheeling west of Luling with two friends. Scotty Ramirez drove a 4 wheeler down the San Marcos River near Gander Slough Road west of Luling looking for a low bank to drive up and out of the river. When Ramirez did not return, his concerned friends reported him missing to the Guadalupe County Sheriff's Department. A search of the area during the night discovered the overturned green 4 wheeler downstream in approximately 4 feet of water. Rescuers searched the wooded area for several hours before calling SMART divers to assist the next morning. SMART arrived on scene at 8:14 am and began the murky underwater search at 9:00am. At 9:18am, Ramirez body was found in 15 feet of water approximately 60 feet downstream from the overturned 4 wheeler. This area of the river has numerous downed trees and boulders just below the water surface and it is believed that Ramirez struck one of those trees with the 4 wheeler. Divers encountered large branches and stumps during the black water search which lasted 18 minutes before Ramirez was located. See photographs in our Photo Gallery's Recovery Operations section. 2000-0904-06.
September 2, 2000 - The SMART cave diving team assisting the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, penetrated further into Jacob's Well than ever before as part of a full mapping and documented exploration. This operation is part of a long on-going study with many dives to learn the mysteries of the Trinity Aquifer cave. SMART began diving in the underwater cave in 1996 and completed made the first video shortly afterwards. To learn more about Jacob's Well, click here. 2000-0902-05
June 12, 2000 - A 26 year old Houston man is reported missing at Comal Park in Canyon Lake after he attempts to swim from shore to assist a fallen jet skier. In one of the deepest areas of the lake, SMART used infrared video cameras connected to topside monitors to search the underwater tree line in depths over 110 feet. The search is called off after three days of searching an area the size of four football fields. One week later the Department of Public Safety dive team is called by the Governor's office to search the area. Again the search is unsuccessful. 2000-0612-04
May 9, 2000 - Tubers floating down the San Marcos River below Rio Vista Park report a body floating in the river near the Interstate 35 underpass. The San Marcos Police Department is notified and responding officers discover a fully clothed female body face down in the water. SMART is called to make the recovery and preserve the physical evidence. Detectives identify the woman as 38 year old Maria Isabel Benavidez, from Tahoka, Texas who was visiting relatives in San Marcos and reported missing three days earlier when she did not return from a morning jog. The medical examiners office determined the cause of death a drowning. 2000-0509-03
April 15, 2000 - SMART participated in the 19th annual Spring San Marcos River Clean-up and again won awards for the most bottles and most cans. The team did not reach the previous record of 462 bottles but came very close with 432 bottles and over 300 cans. Too date, SMART has won 11 awards participating in community river clean up projects throughout central Texas. 2000-0415-02
January 4, 2000 - When a large number of San Marcos residents are without water pressure, SMART is called by City officials to investigate and locate a water main break somewhere under the Sessoms Drive bridge on the San Marcos river. Divers discover a 10" main is broken and the water pressure from the leak has carved out a large cavity under the bridge. Detailed inspection determines a 2 foot section of pipe has shattered at a joint and extensive excavation and repairs are needed. Case number 2000-0104-01.
December 4, 1999 - Gabriel Lester, a 17 year old student is missing from St. Stephens school in Austin. His locked vehicle containing his identification is found parked next to the Pennybaker bridge on Loop 360 over the Colorado River. The Travis County Sheriff's Department contacts SMART to search the river below for the missing student. SMART searches for 3 hours and finds two telephone booths, two motorcycles, newspaper vending machines, a strong box and other trash, but no evidence of the missing student. Gabriel's body is later found on shore below the bridge and on steep cliff about 75 feet up from the water. See our Photo Gallery's Recovery Operations section for a picture taken under the 360 bridge in Travis County as the team prepares to launch the dive boat. 99-1204-11.
October 16, 1999 - During the annual fall San Marcos River clean-up, SMART received awards for the most bottles recovered (307) and most shoes (24). The team also collected 317 cans but fell short of breaking their old record of 432 bottles set on March 28, 1998. The annual clean up is sponsored by the City of San Marcos Park & Recreation. See photographs in our Photo Gallery's Recovery Operations section. 99-1016-10
September 18, 1999 - SMART members participated in the annual Blanco river clean up in Hays County at 5 mile dam. The low water and drought conditions exposed a large portion of the riverbed enabling participants to clean up a large area in and around the park. 99-0918-09
August 4, 1999 - A ten year old boy snorkeling down the San Marcos river with a church group becomes alarmed when he sees what he believes in a man's leg submerged in the river. San Marcos PD investigates and calls SMART to search the river in the area of City Park. After 90 minutes of searching the river bottom in very clear water, divers find shoes, a snorkel, mask, and tree limps, but nothing to cause alarm. 99-0804-08
July 31, 1999 - A 21 year old Honduran national visiting his family in New Braunfels, spent the evening at River Rats campground on the Guadalupe River. Shortly after 9pm, the family saw the victim walking in shallow water along the west bank of the river approaching the Loop 337 bridge. A few minutes later they heard him yell for help but they could not find him in the darkness. The New Braunfels FD and Comal County SO called SMART for assistance at 1:55pm after 6 hours of searching the Guadalupe river. Divers were hampered by heavy debris in the water left behind by the October 1998 flooding. The search pattern was extended south under the Loop 337 bridge where the body of Jerson Ortiz Medina was found in 8 feet of water. 99-0731-07.
July 6, 1999 - The Comal County Sheriff's Department requested SMART Divers to assist the Canyon Lake Fire Department and Comal County Emergency Services Unit with a drowning victim recovery near the Canyon Lake dam at North Park. Despite the chain link fence and warning signs, a adult male jumped off the rock cliffs into the water and failed to surface. Family members of the deceased reported the incident to the Sheriff's Department. The body was recovered by members of the Canyon Lake FD and CCESU. 99-0706-06.
June 22, 1999 - FEMA and the San Marcos Parks & Recreation Department requested SMART to inspect the Dam at Rio Vista park in San Marcos for signs of damage and deterioration from the October 1998 flood. SMART took measurements and an underwater video of the structure which were compared to measurements taken in April 1996. Although the dam is undercut and in poor shape with exposed timbers, the dam suffered little damage from the recent flooding. 99-0622-05.
May 4, 1999 - The dive team responds to the Blanco River near 5-mile dam to assist the San Marcos Police Department with the recovery of physical evidence stolen during recent building burglaries. Divers recovered two police radios with accessories that were stolen from the City of San Marcos earlier in the year and discarded into the Blanco River. The underwater crime scene is documented with underwater video and physical evidence is preserved. The radios were delivered to the Texas Department of Public Safety laboratory in Austin where they were processed for fingerprints. A suspect was arrested and charged later in the same month. 99-0504-04.
February 22, 1999 - Divers returned to the San Marcos River near Thompson's Island to search for more military ammunition. Using an underwater metal detector, divers located a watch, electric dog collar, three fishing poles, a road sign, a digital pager, batteries, vehicle parts, lead weights, and a set of vehicle keys. Divers searched approximately 300 feet of river bottom in a 3 hour period. No further ammunition was located leading investigators to believe the military round discovered the day before was an isolated incident. 99-0222-03.
February 21, 1999 - SMART assisted San Marcos PD detectives with a burglary investigation which led to the San Marcos River. Divers searched two areas of the river for stolen property taken in the recent burglary. Among the items discovered was a 25mm military round of live ammunition that was unrelated to the case being investigated. US Army EOD took custody of the round and exploded the warhead at the local FD training area. 99-0221-02.
February 6, 1999 - Assisting the Texas Natural Resource and Conservation Commission (TNRCC), SMART cave divers descended into Ezel's Cave in San Marcos to collect water and sediment samples. During the cave dive, a rarely seen endangered species, the Texas Blind Salamander, appeared at the bottom of the cave floor. Divers captured the Salamander and the cave on 35mm film. You can see a very rare photograph of the Salamander in the See photographs in our Photo Gallery's Cave Diving section. 99-0206-01.
October 21, 1998 - After the worst flooding in Central Texas history named "The flood of 98", SMART teamed up with the DPS dive team to search for two missing children in a suburban that was swept off a one lane bridge on CR227 in Caldwell County. After a four hour boat search, the vehicle was located with the use of a magnetometer. Divers found the vehicle upright in 22 feet of water, 100 yards down stream from the bridge . SMART Divers penetrated into the vehicle through the back doors and located the body of 11 year old Heather Cottle but did not find 7 year old Devon McCoy. This was a zero visibility touch contact search and recovery operation. The vehicle was marked with a buoy and GPS coordinates for later recovery. A family pet cocker spaniel also died in this tragic incident. The following day, October 22, the body of Devon McCoy was found floating near the reservoir dam. See photographs in our Photo Gallery's Recovery Operations section. 98-1021-10.
October 11, 1998 - SMART teamed up with the Texas Speleological Society and performed a gravel excavation at Honey Creek Cave near the Guadalupe River State Park. After a mile and a half swim from the natural entrance, and while 118 feet underground, the combined team used an air lift to remove gravel and debris that had fallen into the cave from a recently drilled well. This gravel removal helped restore the natural water flow inside the cave where rocks and debris were piled up four feet high from the drilling. This operation helped maintain an excellent rapport with the property owner and ensured many more years of spelunking into Texas largest cave. 98-1011-09.
August 17, 1998 - The San Marcos Police Department called SMART to recover the body of a teenage male seen in the Blanco River off River Road in San Marcos. SMART Divers recovered the body by following SOP and preserved evidence by recording the scene on video, taking measurements, and bagging the hands, feet, and head of the victim. The deceased was later identified as an 18 year old Gary Job Corps student who was reported missing on Sunday night after he failed to return to the training center from a weekend pass. After autopsy, San Marcos PD homicide detectives determined the cause of death as accidental drowning. See photographs in our Photo Gallery's Recovery Operations section. 98-0817-08.
June 15, 1998 - For the second time on this date, SMART is called by the Comal County Sheriff's Department for a recovery. A 13 year old boy is missing after swimming with his family at Comal Park on Canyon Lake. SMART, combined with the CCSO Emergency Services Unit, searched the entire day while outdoor temperatures reached a record 107 degrees. Divers reached a maximum depth of 80 feet with visibility less than 5 feet. A pair of sandals belonging to the victim were located on shore and divers used this location as the last seen point. Despite a well organized search effort, the victim was not located. There were no witnesses and the family did not notice the boy missing for several hours. On June 20, SMART Divers again searched for the body of 13 year old Johnny Duenez who was reported missing from Comal Park on June 14. Divers searched the underwater tree line at depths up to 100 feet. Ten days later on June 25, the boys' body was found floating near the center of the lake by fisherman across from Jacob's Creek Park. 98-0615-07.
June 15, 1998 - SMART is called by the Comal County Sheriff's Department to assist the New Braunfels FD with the recovery of a 30 year old women who drown in the Guadalupe River near Sleepy Hollow Road. The victim was located and recovered by NBFD. The women had a history of epilepsy and had a seizure prior to walking near the water. It is believed that a seizure contributed to her drowning. 98-0615-06.
May 23, 1998 - Two five year old boys are found alive and floating in life jackets on Trading House Reservoir east of Waco. When the sun burned boys are questioned by the local game warden who found them, the boys say "We were fishing" and "The boat sank, daddy drown". The father's body was recovered nearly 400 yards away from where the twins were found. SMART was called to recover the sunken boat. After two days of searching with support from local fisherman, the boat is found and lifted by area divers. 98-0523-05.
March 28, 1998 - At the 17th annual Spring - San Marcos River Clean-up called the "Treasure Hunt", organized by San Marcos Parks & Recreation and sponsored by THE DIVE SHOP, SMART received awards for the largest community service group, and for collecting the most bottles (432). 98-0328-04.
March 22, 1998 - SMART cave divers assisted in a joint bio-study of Jacob's Well and Cypress Creek conducted by the US Geological Society, the Texas Natural Resource Commission, and Southwest Texas State University. Divers used the new underwater video camera to record the cave and take close up video of the small marine life. Close up still photographs were also taken of "darters", a small bottom swimming fish. Jacob's Well is located in the hill country of Wimberley, Texas. 98-0322-03.
February 7, 1998 - Two teams of SMART members went back to Honey Creek Cave, Texas largest cave, and made the long underground trek to the upper sump beginning at the man made entrance. SMART has been asked by members of the NSS and TSA to examine this area of the cave and determine if it is possible for cave divers to bring in equipment and explore the underwater cave at the sump. After 8 1/2 hours of steady underground traveling, sometimes crawling on their hands and knees, and other times swimming, the teams emerged exhausted but successful in reaching the sump. A future cave dive is being scheduled. See photographs in our Photo Gallery's Honey Creek Cave section. 98-0207-02.
February 1, 1998 - A 40 year old male attempts to cross the Blanco River bridge low water crossing on Uhland Road in San Marcos at 3:00AM. His 1997 Ford mustang is swept over the bridge into swallow swift water. The driver is rescued by the San Marcos Fire & Rescue Swift Water Team and SMART is called to recover the vehicle. Using safety ropes and personal floatation devices, divers bring the vehicle to shore with the assistance of a wrecker. See photographs in our Photo Gallery's Recovery Operations section. 98-0201-01.
November 1, 1997- SMART members participated in the 1997 Caverns of Sonora Restoration Project, in a large living cave a few miles west of Sonora, Texas. A total of 68 volunteers including SMART members removed 27 tons of gravel, rocks, and debris from the cave during this day long excavation. When the cave was originally developed in the 1950's, much of the gravel was dumped inside the cave on lower levels to make walkways for tourism. The gravel is slowly being removed to restore the 8 mile cave back it's once pristine condition. 97-1101-09
October 18, 1997- At the 9th annual Fall "San Marcos River Clean Up" organized by Parks & Recreation, SMART Divers participated and came away with four awards: Most bottles collected - 372, most aggregate weight - over 250 lb., most shoes found - 23, and most participants for a community service organization. 97-1018-08
September 22, 1997- Three military personnel were boating on Canyon Lake at approximately 9pm when they stopped the boat to swim somewhere between Jacob's Creek Park and Comal Park . The boat drifted away from the swimmers and only one of the swimmers was able to get back to shore. Two females, ages 23 and 27 were reported missing. The lone male survivor, who swam for over an hour, was unable to give even an approximate location of the missing females. Due to the large search area (over 3 square miles), heavy rains, deep depths, and a threat of lightning, SMART declined the operation due to the unacceptable risk to SMART personnel. The first victim floated within 48 hours and the second within one week. This was the first time in the 9 year history of the dive team that a recovery operation was declined. 97-0922-07
July 5, 1997- After a fireworks display on Lake McQueeney, two boats collided in the darkness. A 50 year old women is missing after being thrown from a boat. Divers were called by the Texas Game Wardens and the Guadalupe County Sheriff's Department to assist. Witnesses could not give an accurate location where the collision occurred. Divers spent 8 hours interviewing witnesses and performing circular search patterns but could not locate the missing women. The victim's body floated two days later a short distance away from the area searched by SMART. 97-0705-06
June 30, 1997- Divers are called to Cypress Creek in Wimberley to assist with the removal of 1997 Suzuki Swift 2-door vehicle which was washed downstream during recent flooding. The odometer showed the vehicle had 10 recorded miles. Divers excavated the passenger compartment gravel, recorded the VIN, and entered the glove compartment to determine ownership. The registered owner, a rental car company, was notified and the vehicle was removed within 5 days, limiting the environmental damage to Cypress Creek. On the same day, divers also entered Jacob's Well to assess flood damage and take water samples. 97-0630-05
June 26, 1997- SMART is called by a law enforcement agency to assist with a underwater crime scene investigation at the scene of a homicide. Details of this operation are now available in open records at the Hays County District Attorney's office. 97-0626-04
June 2, 1997- Two boaters are traveling down the swift rain swollen San Marcos River near Luling when the boat capsizes against a fallen tree. The body of a 15 year old boy is recovered by SMART after an exhaustive four hour black water operation. Divers battled swift water to recover the body pinned under the capsized boat. 97-0602-03
January 15, 1997- The dive team is called by the Hays County Sheriff's Department to search a river at the scene of a homicide. Details of this operation are available in open records at the Hays County District Attorney's Office. See photographs in our Photo Gallery's Recovery Operations section 97-0115-02
January 11, 1997- When witnesses see the red tail lights of a vehicle as they submerge into a Buda stock tank off CR 967, SMART is called by the Texas Department of Public Safety to investigate. Divers locate a 1990 silver colored Ford Thunderbird unoccupied in 18 feet of water. Investigation determines the vehicle was stolen from Austin earlier in the day, and abandoned in the stock tank. Divers braved 45 degree water for nearly an hour to recover the vehicle which was 60 feet from shore. 97-0111-01
September 11, 1996- For the first time SMART cave divers entered into Jacob's Well in Wimberley to map out the cave and take water samples for bacteria analysis at Southwest Texas State University. Divers have continued with regular operations into the cave system to remove debris, monitor water flow, and collect water samples for analysis. See photographs in our Photo Gallery's Recovery Operations section. 96-0911-08
August 6, 1996- A Crime Stoppers tip to the San Marcos Police Department indicates that a missing vehicle is in the San Marcos River near CR-266. Divers located the submerged Monte Carlo and discover the vehicle is registered to man found deceased in the water down stream nearly 14 months earlier under suspicious circumstances. Autopsy showed the victim died by drowning. Divers investigate the vehicle as a crime scene and by recording vehicle positioning and mechanical operations, determine that the drowning was accidental when the victim attempted to forge the San Marcos River 300 yards upstream from where the vehicle was found. See photographs in our Photo Gallery's Recovery Operations section. 96-0806-07
July 7, 1996- A 40 year old man jumps from a moving boat and attempts a swim to shore near Sorrel Creek, Canyon Lake. Divers are called by the Comal County Sheriff's Department to search for the missing boater after recreational divers in the area attempted to locate the victim the night before. After interviewing witnesses, divers used a shore line sweep pattern and recovered the victim in 11 feet of water in a record bottom time of 1 minute and 58 seconds. 96-0707-06
April 11, 1996- A Vehicle plunges off of Stage Coach Road into the Blanco River in Hays County. SMART is called by Texas Department of Public Safety Troopers to investigate. Divers discover the body of the 24 year old driver pinned between the roof and back seat of his Ford Bronco. The vehicle was discovered upside down in 12 feet of water. An autopsy indicated the victim was not intoxicated and death was due to drowning. 96-0411-05
March 23, 1996- Five children were playing in a boat on a large stock tank in the Green Pastures sub-division, Hays County, when the boat is capsized. Two boys ages 5 and 13 are missing while the remaining children made it to shore. SMART is called by the Hays County Sheriff's Department to search for the missing boys. The contaminated water in the tank had dead animals floating on the surface. It took divers three hours to locate and recover the two victims in 12 feet of water. 96-0323-04
February 17, 1996- SMART Divers spent 3 days looking for the body of a missing boater who fell off the back of his boat on Valentines Day near Red Cove Marina. Divers assisted the Medina FD and Texas Game Wardens while braving 48 degree water at a depth of 94 feet. The victim was not located until 118 days later when the 44 year old male victim floated to the surface and was recovered. 96-0217-01 (-02,-03)
September 16, 1995- A 39 year old male is reported missing while swimming with a female friend at night near Overlook Park on Canyon Lake. The dive team is called by the Comal County Sheriff's Department and the Army Corp. of Engineers to assist. Divers locate and recover the body in 84 feet of water in less than 10 minutes. The only evidence leading the team to the drowning location was a pack of cigarettes found on the shore. 95-0916-05
August 31, 1995- After a young boy drowns at Dudley Johnson Park in Hays County, SMART is called to seal off a suctioning water pipe that contributed to the death. Divers used sand bags to stop the water flow and the pipe was then welded shut. 95-0831-04
August 11, 1995- A vehicle traveling on Old Stage Coach road in Hays County leaves the road and plunges into the Blanco River. The driver escapes and SMART Divers recover the unoccupied 1989 Honda 2-door in 11 feet of water. 95-0811-03
July 19, 1995- A tuber traveling down the Guadalupe River is reported missing in the Guadalupe River State Park. SMART is called to assist Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden. Using a strait line rope search, divers locate and recover the 21 year old male in 5 feet of water within 21 minutes. 95-0719-02
May 15, 1995- The team is called to the Blanco River to assist the Hays County Sheriff's Department at 5 mile dam after a 21 year old male swimmer is reported missing in the river. Using a circular pattern, divers locate the victim's body in 18 feet of water within 20 minutes. 95-0515-01