A flooded Trinity River rescue which began at about 3:25 pm Monday evening then resumed again at 9:23 pm that evening and was finally completed at about 2:30 am Tuesday morning resulted in a chain of events that was not only dangerous but ended in the arrest of one of the citizen rescuers on an outstanding felony warrant. According to lead Investigator Cpl. Kevin Theiss of the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, 48 year old Elizardo Valdez was checking his hog traps along the flooded Trinity River Monday when his boat overturned in the swift flooded river. The West Lake Volunteer Fire Department responded and rescued Valdez from the river that afternoon.
The Sheriff’s Office later received a call at approximately 9:23 pm Monday night that two men were clinging to a structure in the river after their canoe capsized in the swift waters. It was determined that Valdez and a friend, Troy Davidson had returned to the river in an attempt to salvage the boat of Valdez when the canoe also overturned in the flood waters.
The West Lake Volunteer Fire Department responded a second time along with D.P.S. and a Texas Game Warden. It was now dark and much too dangerous to put a rescue boat into the flood waters so the U.S. Coast Guard was called to respond with a helicopter to rescue the two men. Deputy Theiss said the helicopter was about 15 minutes from arrival when, unknown to them, 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. Both Valdez and Davidson was reported to be unhurt and in good physical condition.
It was at this point, the Game Warden noticed that neither the ski boat nor the trailer had proper registration so both were seized by the Game Warden and remains in their custody. A records check reflected that Rodney Steward was wanted on an outstanding felony warrant out of Chambers County and he was arrested at the scene and placed in the Liberty County jail.
Cpl. Theiss said that Loonam ran from the scene into the woods and was not located as of 2:30 am Tuesday morning. The investigation continues.
The Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Game Wardens and the D.P.S. continue to warn the public to not attempt to go in or around the Trinity River while it is at flood stage and flowing so swiftly. It is dangerous and can put one in a life- threatening situation quickly