Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Preventable Deaths?? Sad Story

From news accounts the accident below looks as is it was preventable. Very sad.....indeed.... Dwayne Clark ------------------- Investigators: Boating deaths likely caused by steering problem June 15,2005 Daniel Perry / Matt Lynch  The Monitor / Valley Morning Star EDCOUCH — State officials investigating Monday’s fatal boating accident confirmed that a steering problem likely led to the deaths of two Edcouch-Elsa school district coaches. "It looks like there was a mechanical failure with the motor and steering mechanism," Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden Jarrett Barker said Tuesday afternoon. "It’s hard to determine if it was normal wear and tear, but the system did not have the proper amount of hydraulic fluid in it, causing the motor to spin out in a direction." Barker said that prior to the accident, the boat’s operators, later identified as Jeff Torres, 33, of Pharr, Rolando Gutierrez, 33, of Edcouch, and Joey Torres, 31, of Weslaco, acknowledged having problems with the craft’s steering mechanism. Gutierrez and Joey Torres died late Monday morning while on a boating trip in the Intracoastal Waterway channel north of the Queen Isabella Memorial Causeway. "They said they were having problems and that they were going to return to port," Barker said. "The safest thing they could have done would have been to drop anchor, put their life vests on and wait for help to arrive. Instead they chose to try to limp in." Gutierrez, 33, of Edcouch, was a freshman English teacher and varsity girls basketball coach at the high school. Joey Torres, 31, of Weslaco, worked at the district’s alternative school and was the varsity assistant girls basketball coach and junior high school boys track coach. A relative, Jeff Torres, 33, of Pharr, was also on the sailing trip and called the U.S. Coast Guard Station South Padre Island for help about 11:15 a.m. Monday after a wave knocked the three men out of their boat. The Coast Guard sent three boats and a helicopter from Station Corpus Christi to aid in the search. Gutierrez and Joey Torres’ bodies were found in six feet of water in the early afternoon. TPW is conducting the investigation into the accident’s cause because it involved serious bodily injuries on a Texas waterway, game warden Jarret Barker said. The agency also regulates recreational boat traffic in the state. "When there is an accident of this type, we will determine as far as what kind of lifejackets were on the boat if they were used, did the boat have all the safety equipment on board," Barker said. "There’s just a slew of things that go into statistics and records kept on accidents so we can better educate the public as how to not let this happen again in the future." Barker said he has already ruled out criminal acts and alcohol as causes. He said once his investigation is completed he will write a report to send to the department’s Austin offices. This will be used as part of a file logging the kinds of incidents that have happened in the state. Meanwhile, the school district is preparing to play a role in the public mourning of the coaches. Viewing will be from 1 to 4 p.m. today at Guerra Funeral Home in Weslaco. The men’s bodies will then be transported to Edcouch-Elsa High School’s gymnasium for another public viewing from 5 to 9 p.m. A rosary is planned for 7 p.m. at the gymnasium. Another visitation will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at the funeral home. The joint funeral is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Elsa. Burial will follow at Highland Memorial Park in Weslaco. ——— Daniel Perry covers Edinburg and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4454.

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