Cellphone call saves capsized boaters

Cellphone call saves capsized boaters

GREGG COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - Swift currents capsized a boat on the Sabine River, sinking the craft and sending three East Texas men into the fast-moving water.

It happened on Saturday night, along the Sabine River between Gladewater and White Oak.

And a phone call from the water saved them.

“Whenever the rivers high like this you’ve got underwater obstacles, fast-moving currents. There was zero boating traffic that night,” says Gregg county game warden Todd Long.

“It’s an 18-foot rig and there’s probably 4 foot sticking out of the water, we knew at that point this was a very serious situation,” says Upshur County Game Warden Nathan Skeen, who also participated in the rescue.

It was around 11 o'clock Saturday night, pitch dark. As the men motored along they became entangled in brush hanging over the water.

“We tried to dislodge from a tree and go against the current, current took the bottom of the boat over and flipped us over. They reached across and grabbed hold of me, and it was kind of free-floating from there,” said rescued boater Austin Bonner.

They were in the water for 45 minutes, and no one else was around.

"Kind of felt lost. Praying that one of the phones still worked, but my phone went kaput. First thing said when we got back up was nobody panic," Bonner says.

The men were desperately trying to stay afloat. It was pitch dark and no one knew they were in the water. But by pure luck, one man took out a cell phone while he was treading water, and made a phone call.

That call: To game warden Todd Long.

“The captain of the boat I had just met prior to this, he saved my number in his phone,” Long says.

Long and Skeen enlisted the help of a local boater and rescued the men.

"Don McClendon, a river resident, he had a boat ready to go," says Long,

“Austin, when we pulled him out, you could tell he was exhausted, there was no energy coming from him,” Skeen says.

But a lesson they say we all can learn from.

"Take a boater safety course, and wear a life jacket," Long says.

They also saved a dog that was with the boaters.

The capsized boat was found down the river on Sunday and recovered.

Game wardens say boaters should be particularly careful on waterways that are still running high and fast.

So use common sense, and common courtesy.

Copyright 2019 KLTV. All rights reserved.