A Killeen man who ran over a young girl and her father with a houseboat reversed in the water without being able to see behind him and didn’t hear people who yelled for him to stop, according to an arrest affidavit released Monday.
Jason Bernal, 44, told a Temple Police officer that he couldn’t see over the three-story boat to back it up. He said that he yelled “clear” before he put the boat in reverse and no one said anything.
Bernal was charged Sunday with criminally negligent homicide in connection with the death of 4-year-old Kaitlyn Oliver.
A video showed the boat in the water and people behind it in waist-deep water, the affidavit said.
A woman who was a witness also told an officer that she previously told Bernal to stop parking in the area because children swam there.
Another officer reportedly talked with a woman who said she saw the boat backing up and heard people in the water who were yelling. She said that she tried to help the man and child and added that the boat was in full throttle while backing up.
Another woman who was with the Oliver family said that she heard the boat motor start up and saw Kaitlyn and her father, Patrick Oliver, behind the boat. She said that she yelled that people were behind the boat.
The accident occurred on Sandy Point, which is not a designated beach area, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lake Manager Ronnie Bruggman said.
Bernal reportedly ran over the girl at about 6:47 p.m. as he backed up his houseboat. The legs of Kaitlyn’s father, Patrick Oliver, were both amputated by the propellers as he tried to rescue her.
Kaitlyn was taken to Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Medical Center and her father transported to Scott & White Medical Center-Temple in serious condition.
Kaitlyn was pronounced dead at 7:45 p.m. by Bell County Justice of the Peace David Barfield.
Patrick Oliver was listed Monday in serious condition, Scott & White Medical Center-Temple spokesman Deke Jones said.
Kaitlyn’s body was sent by Barfield for an autopsy. The autopsy, performed at the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences, determined that she died of chopping wounds and drowning.
Bernal, charged Sunday, posted $150,000 bond that same day and was released, Bell County Chief Deputy Chuck Cox said Monday.
Neely said in an earlier release that it is possible more charges may be filed in this case.
“With any accident investigation involving any type of vehicle, it is standard protocol that the subject’s blood sample be sent to the Texas Department of Public Safety lab for testing,” Temple Police Department spokeswoman Shawana Neely said Monday, indicating that Bernal’s blood was being tested to see if he was intoxicated.
A GoFundMe account was set up for Pat and Kaitlyn Oliver, with the funds to be used for Kaitlyn’s funeral, Patrick Oliver’s medical bills and related expenses. The end goal is $250,000, and $22,809 was raised by Monday morning.
Crotty Funeral Home & Cremation Services in Belton will handle the funeral services for Kaitlyn at no cost and met with the family Monday afternoon to make arrangements, Jarrah Crotty told the Telegram on Monday afternoon.
“Being mothers ourselves, we couldn’t imagine the pain,” Crotty said. “We opened our funeral home in order to help our community that we love. That will always be our ultimate goal.”
Patrick Oliver was changing jobs at the time of the accident and the family has no medical insurance, according to the information on Gofundme.com.
Members from the Morgan’s Point Resort Dive Team, Morgan’s Point Police Department, Temple Fire & Rescue, the Corps of Engineers and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department were at the lake to assist, Neely said.
Lake Belton safety
Boaters and swimmers at Lake Belton do so at their own risk, and boaters aren’t prohibited from pulling up anywhere on Lake Belton except at the designated swim beaches, Bruggman said Monday.
Although Friday night’s death was a tragedy, the Corps doesn’t anticipate any changes in their policies, Bruggman said.
The Corps follows the state standards, and those standards are that boats may go anywhere other than where they’re prohibited.
In the case of Lake Belton, boaters can nose their boats up along the shoreline but not at beach areas, Bruggman said.
“We strongly recommend that people use the designated beach area for swimming, but Sandy Point at Temple Lake Park is a very popular area for both boaters and swimmers,” he said. “Alcohol is also allowed, as long as a person isn’t intoxicated.”
“People need to be very careful around the water because it is very powerful,” he said. “There are lots of hazards out there, especially when you introduce boats and boat props into shallow areas where people may be swimming.”
When leaving an area, a boat operator should always check to see if anyone is nearby in the water and should tell everyone to stay clear because the boat will be moving, Bruggman said. “The proper procedure is to make sure someone is watching where you’re traveling. Make sure that everyone around you knows that you’re about to crank the engine and move,” he said.
According to Section 19.05 of the Texas Penal Code, criminally negligent homicide is an act in which a person causes the death of another by criminal negligence. Texas residents are expected to behave in a way that doesn’t endanger safety or lives, and to not cause death by omitting certain actions.
In Texas, someone convicted of criminally negligent homicide may face from six months to two years in state jail, a fine up to $10,000 or probation and community service. Someone convicted of this offense won’t be eligible for parole.