An 80-year-old Texas man died when a double-decker party boat capsized in a lake during a thunderstorm, authorities said.
Karl Katzenberger, of Montgomery, died at a hospital Saturday after a party boat carrying 53 passengers flipped on Lake Conroe amid a strong thunderstorm and high winds, the Houston Chronicle reported.
The inclement weather led to rough, choppy conditions on the lake north of Houston and waves up to five feet high, Capt. Joe Sclider of the Montgomery County Constable’s Office told the newspaper.
The vessel, the Lake Conroe Queen, capsized about 40 minutes into its planned 90-minute excursion, KPRC reported.
Video obtained by the station showed the boat on its side in the water. Some passengers and people who came to help described a frantic scene that began at about 8 p.m. Saturday.
Residents who live nearby said they jumped into action to pull some of the victims out of the lake as they waited for rescue officials to arrive.
“By the time we got down here, the boat pretty much capsized and everybody was floating in the water,” Brock O’Rourke told KPRC. “I mean, man, it was a pretty rough scene because the waves were five or six feet at least and we were slowly pulling people back.”
Two people were taken to a hospital after dozens of passengers were pulled from the lake, including Katzenberger and a woman who had a panic attack, Sclider told the Chronicle.
The Lake Conroe Queen, a reproduction of an 1860s-style riverboat, was built in 1986 and can accompany up to 60 passengers, according to its website. The vessel’s operator did not respond to requests for comment, the Chronicle reported.
One passenger, Atul Jain, said those aboard were told to huddle in the center of the boat as conditions quickly deteriorated.
“The boat started shaking a lot,” Jain told the Chronicle, adding that it then tipped over near shore, dumping everyone into the water.
Authorities said no other passengers — all of whom were wearing life jackets — or crew members were later reported missing. Investigators for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are looking into the incident, NBC News reported.
All of the rescued passengers were examined by responding medical personnel due to diesel fuel in the lake, Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough wrote on Facebook alongside photos of the boat and scattered debris.
“Decontamination was then done to get the diesel fuel off the passengers before they were transported to their original starting point where all their cars were parked,” Keough said.
Some rescue officials, according to the judge, said they had never before witnessed such a large-scale emergency response at the 22,000-acre lake.
“So much bravery and teamwork tonight helped save so many from what could have been a complete disaster and a mass rescue operation didn’t turn into a mass casualty event,” Keough wrote.
Poor weather is believed to be the cause of the capsized boat, but an investigation is ongoing, Keough said.