The Texas National Guardsman who drowned Friday after jumping into the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexico border to save two immigrants had not been given the proper equipment to conduct a water rescue, reports the Texas Tribune.
The Texas Military Department, responsible for equipping the Texas National Guard, had ordered “rescue ropes and ring buoys” for guardsmen in February, but the equipment had not arrived, leaving most guard members without safety equipment to perform their duties, according to the Tribune and Military Times.
The body of Spc. Bishop Evans, a 22-year-old artilleryman from Arlington, Texas, was recovered Monday, not far from the area near Eagle Pass, Texas were he was last seen. The Texas Military Department says Evans tried to save two people struggling in the river as they were attempting to enter the US illegally. Evans drowned, however, while the two immigrants survived. The immigrants have been described as having been part of “illicit transnational narcotics trafficking,” said the Texas Military Department.
The Texas Military Department admitted to having “gaps in equipment and safety gear,” the department told the Texas Tribune.
“The incident is still under investigation, however we do not believe SPC Evans had a floatation device at the time of death. We only received about 25 percent of the requested equipment due to delays from the vendor and global supply chain issues,” the department told the paper.
(“Evans) was not given a floatation device. I want to know why,” Texas State Sen. Roland Gutierrez told The Post Thursday. “This particular agency is under the direct direction of the governor’s office. It’s astounding to me that would start an operation, well over 14 months ago and you wait until month 11 to order floatation. A $30 floatation device could have saved Evans’ life.”
Evans was on the border as part of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, his attempt to increase border security. The mission has been widely criticized for being poorly organized and lacking direction, while leaving guard members in deplorable living conditions.
The governor’s office did not respond to The Post’s request for comment on the lack of proper equipment for the mission he ordered.
“Governor Abbott needs to be held accountable for this. Operation Lone Star has been one failure after another. It’s costing taxpayers money and unfortunately for Bishop Evans, it cost him his life,” said Gutierrez.
Water rescues are considered so dangerous, that US Border Patrol agents are not authorized to jump in if they see a person drowning in the Rio Grande. They must call in specially trained agents with special equipment for water rescues.
“As of yesterday, they stopped water rescues for the National Guard. Of course, they didn’t have the training, nor the equipment,” said Gutierrez.