Man facing multiple charges after person vanishes in boating accident on San Jacinto River

By Cathy Hernandez - Reporter, Taisha Walker - Reporter, Brittany Taylor - Digital News Editor, Daniela Sternitzky-Di Napoli - Digital News Editor

HOUSTON - A Houston man is facing intoxication assault charges in connection with a boating accident that happened Sunday on the San Jacinto River, in which one person disappeared and two others were injured.

Sean Teare, division chief of vehicular crimes for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, said Monday that surveillance videos captured the driver speeding right before the crash.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the accident happened around 7 p.m. Sunday in the San Jacinto River near 18908 Sandridge Court.

Gonzalez said a single-engine boat struck a bulkhead, which is the retaining wall between the river and homes along the water, at full speed and then crashed into a boathouse, leaving a man and woman with serious injuries.

He said the man was flown to a hospital via Life Flight and the woman was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. According to authorities, both are in stable condition. The man is in the intensive care unit. 

“As of right now, we are preparing to charge the defendant with boating while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury, basically an intoxication assault for the victim we do have at the hospital right now,” Teare said.

According to Gonzalez, the impact may have sent a third person overboard.

Texas game wardens were in boats combing the area along the San Jacinto River and Rio Villa on Sunday night in hopes of finding the missing boater.

Game wardens returned Monday morning to inspect and take pictures of the wreckage.

“Right now, we’re relying a lot on witnesses statements and the information from the point of impact and the damage done to the boat,” said Capt. Eric Minter of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “The priority right now is to find the missing occupant. Witnesses have reported that he went overboard.”

One resident said the wreckage looked severe and she hopes officials can find the third person. 

“I just hope they find whoever they’re looking for,” said resident Letty Battistoni. “It was really mangled and it looked like it was halfway underwater.”

Texas game wardens used boats with sonar technology to comb the water in an effort to locate the third boater. While crews look for the man, authorities started the investigation into what may have caused the crash.

“We have some boat accident reconstruction team members here working on it," Minter said. "Hopefully, they’ll be able to determine (the cause) during the course of the investigation.” 

The boat’s operator could face more charges once that man is located.

“If and when the third person that we believe was on the boat is recovered or discovered, the defendant is going to be facing a felony murder charge, being that this will be his third DWI-related conviction,” Teare said.

The district attorney’s office also plans to search the boat, once it’s recovered, as well as the cars of the three people who were on the boat. Teare said he does not believe any of them were wearing life jackets.

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