Officials are urging water safety this Memorial Day weekend after a child died from complications of a near-drowning at Lake Belton.
The incident occurred at about 5:15 p.m. Saturday near Oakmont Park in Morgan’s Point Resort, the Bell County Sheriff’s Department said.
The victim was a 12-year-old boy, who was at the Bell County lake with his older siblings. He was not identified by the Sheriff’s Department, which is typical of Texas law enforcement agencies in cases involving minors.
Witnesses told officers that the boy went underwater in an area off the shoreline where the lake was about eight feet deep.
“A boater in the area reported hearing screams for help and responded to assist in locating the victim,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a news release. “The boater was successful and recovered the victim after having been underwater for approximately 11 minutes.”
First responders attempted life saving measures and the boy was revived at the scene. When he had a pulse, he was transported to Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Medical Center in Temple.
On Tuesday, “investigators were notified by the Medical Center that the victim succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased,” the Sheriff’s Department said.
Agencies that responded to the incident included the Morgan’s Point Police Department, Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers park rangers, Morgan’s Point Resort firefighters, and AMR Emergency Medical Services.
Cassy Hill, a park ranger at Lake Belton, said lake visitors should use caution on the water since the lake was about 67.7% full on Thursday.
“We recommend water safety by having people go swimming with a buddy, watch for objects under water and steep drops,” she said. “Always be aware of the water and your surroundings.”
Underwater hazards at the lake include sunken logs and trees. A sunken bridge is now visible near the State Highway 36 bridge over the lake, she said.
Lifejackets are recommended for swimmers at Bell County two’s lakes, which also includes Stillhouse Hollow Lake near Belton. Temple Lake Park, a popular spot in far western Temple, has a marked swimming area.
“There are no lifeguards on duty so it is swim at your own risk,” Hill said.
The park ranger also said visitors should wear bright clothing so they can be seen by others and aided more easily if they run into trouble.
Drought conditions have affected Lake Belton’s water level and there are shallow spots mostly on the north side of the serpentine lake fed, in part, by the Leon River.
“There are a bunch of random spots that are hazardous for boaters,” Hill said. “We recommended boaters use their depth finder and stay within the main channel to avoid underwater hazards.
She also recommended that boaters use a secondary guide to watch out for obstacles.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have all local park rangers on duty for Memorial Day weekend. They will patrol Corps-operated lake parks and land, along with Bell County deputies, which are contracted with the federal agency for local law enforcement duties.
“It’s all hands on deck,” Hill said. “We’ll be out there to make sure people have a safe holiday weekend.”