River Rescue leads to unexpected arrest
A flooded Trinity River rescue led to the arrest of one of the volunteers assisting in the rescue.
On May 13, Elizardo Valdez, 48, was checking his hog traps along the flooded Trinity River when his boat overturned in the swift flooded river.
The Liberty County Sheriff’s Office was notified, and the West Lake Volunteer Fire Department responded and rescued Valdez from the treacherous river that afternoon around 3:25 p.m.
Later the same night around 9:23, the LCSO was called again and told that two men were clinging to a structure in the river after their canoe capsized in the swift waters.
When they arrived, they realized it was Valdez again along with friend Troy Davidson. The pair returned to the river to attempt to salvage Valdez’s boat when the canoe also overturned in the flood waters.
The West Lake Volunteer Fire Department responded a second time along with the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and a Texas Game warden.
Too dark to see and much too dangerous to put a rescue boat into the flood waters, the U. S. Coast Guard was called to respond with a helicopter, said LCSO lead investigator Cpl. Kevin Theiss, to rescue the two men.
“The helicopter was about 15 minutes from arrival when, unbeknownst to us, two local citizens, Rodney Steward and Joshua Loonam, unloaded a ski boat and put in upstream and managed to rescue the two men from the river,” he said.
Valdez and Davidson, after being plucked from the river, were reported to be unhurt and in good physical condition.
At the end of the rescue, the game warden noticed that neither the ski boat nor the trailer had proper registration. The game warden seized both vehicles and remain in his custody.
A background check showed Steward as a felon with an outstanding warrant out for his arrest in Chambers County. He was arrested at the scene and placed in the Liberty County jail.
His friend, Loonam, ran from the scene into the woods and was never located. Officer suspected he, too, may have had an outstanding warrant, but LCSO spokesperson Ken DeFoor couldn’t confirm it.
The LCSO, Texas Game Wardens, and DPS warned the public not to attempt to go into or around the Trinity River while it’s at flood stage and flowing so swiftly.
“To do so is dangerous and can put you in a life-threatening situation quickly,” DeFoor said.
The investigation continues.