by SEAN KIMMONS
Four people are believed to have drowned Saturday while swimming in Canyon Lake and Lake Travis, authorities say.
At Canyon Lake, Chester Aguilar, 20, and Matthew Arzate, 21, both of San Antonio, went missing around 10 a.m. near Comal Park on the south side of the lake off FM 2673, about 20 miles west of San Marcos.
Across the lake at about 6:30 p.m., Maurice Hamilton, also from San Antonio, and his five-year-old son were on an inflatable raft when it flipped over beside Canyon Park near FM 306. The boy was wearing a life vest and was saved but the 28-year-old father never resurfaced, said Comal County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Lt. Mark Reynolds.
The body of Aguilar was recovered eight minutes after divers from the San Marcos Area Recovery Team (SMART) entered the water around 12:30 p.m. The late response resulted from erroneous information about the drowning site.
“This conflicting information delayed SMART and the initial response,” SMART spokesperson Dan Misiaszek said. “The correct information was received shortly after 11 a.m. to respond to Comal Park on the far south side of the lake.”
Further diving operations continued at this site to find Arzate until divers learned that both men did not go down in the same area. Witnesses told authorities that Arzate went out to rescue Aguilar but struggled and tried to swim back to shore. As a pontoon boat approached Arzate, witnesses said that he sunk underwater, officials say.
A lack of witnesses also delayed the search for Hamilton, which forced divers to search an area larger than three football fields, yielding no results, Misiaszek said.
On Monday, Misiaszek said divers used boats equipped with search and rescue imaging sonar to obtain the approximate location of the body. A K-9 unit then put cadaver dogs on the boats to narrow down the site.
Around 11 a.m., Hamilton’s body was pulled to the surface in an area that wasn’t originally searched.
“We didn’t believe he was in this area according to what witnesses were saying,” Misiaszek said. “They only could give us a general area.”
Diving operations for Arzate have been suspended as authorities try to obtain new witness accounts. Misiaszek and other divers believe Arzate is likely in deep water below one of the tree canopies that line the shore near the original Guadalupe River bed.
“We are only searching for [Arzate] from the surface,” Misiaszek said. “I doubt if we are going to dive in the tree line; it’s just too dangerous.”
Dangers, he says, can include zero visibility, tree branches, fishing lines and hooks, boat anchors, ropes and other debris.
On Lake Travis, a Travis County Sheriff’s Office dive team deployed to Bob Wentz Park to recover the body of a 34-year-old Houston man who witnesses said tried to swim across a cove with several friends when he went under Saturday afternoon. Rescue swimmers were unsuccessful in locating the body, said Travis County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Capt. Wes Priddy.
Divers found the body of Edwin Eduardo Morales around 7 p.m. in about six feet of water, 30 yards from the shore, Priddy said.