Authorities issue warning after drowning in Barton Creek

Central Texas authorities have issued a warning after a woman drowned in Barton Creek last night. Fast-moving water can quickly turn deadly and crews have now closed that area to the public.

Lake Austin and Lady Bird Lake will be closed until noon on Wednesday. That could change depending on how swift the water is. Even after that, there will be dangers. Authorities are trying to prevent another tragedy from occurring.

A tragic ending to Memorial Day. 34-year-old Leah Morgan Durrett went into Barton Creek and never resurfaced.

"It may not seem like it's very fast moving but once it takes you, you're going to be swept downstream pretty fast," says Officer John O'Donnell, Austin Police Department, Lake Patrol.

Durrett's friends called 911 around 8:00 Monday night. Authorities say the woman was tubing downstream on Barton Creek, when all of a sudden she was  swept into a culvert that feeds into Barton Springs Pool.

The search and recovery efforts lasted for about two hours. The Medical Examiner's Office says Durrett died from drowning and blunt force injuries.

Strong currents are believed to have played a factor in her death, which has been ruled accidental. Mark Poindexter kayaks in the same area of Barton Creek and was sad to hear about the tragedy.

"I would never even bring a canoe down at any level. So you need to know what you're doing and know the correct craft. A tube in swift water is actually pushing the limits. Although you get against a metal grate like that, any boat would have gotten stuck. It wouldn't have mattered what you were in," says Mark Poindexter, kayak instructor.

Poindexter says he has never seen a death on the water but several near-deaths. He gives advice to those in danger.

"You want to get on your back. Stick your feet downstream so you can fend off anything. You don't want to try to stand up in the river, that's the most common mistake. People want to stand up in the river and you can actually get your foot caught under a rock," says Poindexter.

APD Lake Patrol says lake levels have risen two to three feet because of floodgates being open at Mansfield Dam. As a result, Lake Austin and Lady Bird Lake are currently closed.

"Just as of yesterday, when they decided that they were going to open the flood gates, we had to make a couple rescues on Lake Austin. A majority of that was just notifying people that the lake was closing and they needed to get off for their own safety," says Officer O'Donnell.

Lake patrol also had to rescue several boats that came loose from their docks. With the lake levels rising, they also warn of underwater hazards. We're told tree branches and logs are the most dangerous.

"The only way you're going to know that there's a log there, is when you hit it. Whether it's your propeller or lower unit on your boat that hits it, it's going to stop you in your tracks and may cause people to be thrown from your boat," says Officer O'Donnell.

APD Lake Patrol says they have up to five boats on Lake Austin and up to two boats on Lady Bird Lake so they are prepared to respond to emergency calls.

 

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