Could fatal Lake Austin boat crash been prevented?

50-year-old Shawn Hurwitz and 34-year-old Jennifer Walley died after their boat crashed into a concrete barge on Lake Austin on Sunday.

Residents said the crash should not have happened and told the city two years ago that the barge was a safety hazard.

After living along Lake Austin for 18 years, Kenneth Hausmann said the lake has become more dangerous.

"A lot of people are from out of town. They don't realize this lake is a two-way lake," Hausmann said. "They don't know you have to stay to the right at all times, the same way as a car. The other thing is, as Austin grows, we have more houses on the lake and more people. There's a lot more boat traffic then there used to be. So the accidents seem to be a little more common," said Hausmann.

Hausmann lives across from where Sunday morning's accident happened.

Austin Police said the two died after their boat, carrying five people, crashed into the concrete barge.

"Several people had heard it. It was fairly noisy when it hit. The dogs started barking and several neighbors heard it," said Hausmann.

As for the concrete barge, residents around the area say they opposed it from the very beginning. They expressed their concerns to the City of Austin for the city to  consider all of the safety hazards involved.

"They just assume there's not going to be a big barge there, you know," said Hausmann.

City of Austin public records show that the property owner on Humboldt Lane requested a termination of a restrictive covenant. It was approved in August of 2013.

Prior to that, the covenant had prohibited the construction of any improvements below the 675-foot contour line along Lake Austin. The owner applied for the construction of a boat dock, something they just recently started on.

"Docks stick out and different things stick out. At night you just have to be really be careful," Hausmann said. "Don't go any faster or you're going to hit something because you may not see it. There's been boats out here that have just drifted out in the middle of the night and been hit."

Austin Travis County EMS told FOX 7 they did face some challenges when trying to get to the scene. The initial caller on the boat was disoriented and gave them the wrong location, which was several miles off.

"Whether you're outdoor recreationally, or just attending one of the local events, remain familiar with your surroundings every now and then. When you're looking down at your handheld device, look up and find a street sign," Commander Mike Benavides of Austin Travis County EMS said. "Find a location where you're at so in the event that an emergency occurs, you will be able to better point the responders to your location."

 

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