Game wardens, volunteers continue search for driver of SUV that plunged into spillway

“At this point, it’s a body recovery mission,” a Texas Fish and Wildlife spokesman says

Game wardens, volunteers continue search for driver of SUV that plunged into spillway
Texas game wardens and volunteers resumed search efforts Monday, April 5 for the driver who disappeared when an SUV crashed through a barrier and plunged into the Wright Patman Lake spillway the evening of Sunday, April 4. (Source: Fred Gamble/KSLA News 12)

WRIGHT PATMAN LAKE, Texas (KSLA) — Texas game wardens and other volunteers resumed their search Monday, April 5 for the driver who disappeared when an SUV plunged into the Wright Patman Lake spillway.

“We will search until the recovery is made of the missing victim,” said Capt. Shawn Hervey, of Texas Fish and Wildlife.

Preliminary investigation indicates a 2000 Chevrolet Yukon was traveling southeast on Sulphur Point Road when it crashed through a barrier and into the water about 6 p.m. Sunday, April 4, said Sgt. Gregg Williams, of the Texas Highway Patrol. “We don’t know why the vehicle left the road and went into the spillway.”

In the past, he said, they have answered calls about people driving into the lake off the boat ramp. This is the first time he knows of someone going through a guardrail.

“I looked and I saw this vehicle come crashing over the guardrail,” said Nancy Porter, who was among people who were fishing at the spillway along the Bowie/Cass county line when the SUV went into the water.

“This other gentleman jumped of the wall and he rescued the lady.”

Dustin Roach, who also was fishing at the spillway, pulled the SUV’s passenger, 29-year-old Lucia Mendoza, out of the rushing waters.

Hervey believes the Ashdown, Ark., man’s actions saved the woman. He thanks Roach for being there.

“While we never encourage anybody to put their own life in danger, everybody knows their own skills and abilities. Mr. Roach felt confident that he could and he did and he was successful.”

Mendoza was taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening.

The Texarkana, Ark., woman told authorities that her husband, whose name has not yet been released, still was in the vehicle.

Divers pulled the SUV out of the water about 11 p.m. Sunday. No one was found inside.

“At this point, it’s a body recovery mission,” Hervey said.

The site has a lot of debris underwater, creating additional challenges for searchers, he said. “We have found debris and clothing from the vehicle as far as four miles down the river.”

And with these weather conditions, Hervey estimated, it could take five to 10 days for the driver’s body to be found.

Meantime, he asked that anglers and other members of the public to stay away from the area until the missing man is located.

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