Families of loved ones lost along dark trail near Rainey Street call for lights, cameras

The call for lights and cameras along a dark trail near Rainey Street was loud and clear at Tuesday’s special called Public Safety Committee. 

City Council members heard from several families whose loved ones were either found dead or severely injured near that trail.

One by one, family and friends of those who died or were severely injured near the Lady Bird Lake Trail by Rainey Street spoke directly to members of the Austin City Council to beg for change.

"What is going on and why can we not find any answers about what happened to our children?" asked Chris Pugh, father of Christian Pugh.

All speakers had a similar mission, and it was to get the city to install lights and cameras along the trail just off Rainey Street. An area that becomes extremely dark at night.

The fight for action was led by the family of Jason John who went missing in early February and was found later dead in the lake.

"The John Family is requesting to make all the necessary actions to protect the life of the people of Austin," said Elsie John, mother of Jason John.

Families with eerily similar stories also showed up to echo the call for lights and cameras. This included Mitchell Gutierrez. His 25-year-old brother Martin went missing off the trail in 2018 and was found a week later dead in the lake.

"He decided to go out with some friends on Rainey Street, and he never came back," said Mitchell.

In 2019, 21-year-old Christian Pugh disappeared after a night on Rainey Street before being found barely alive two days later. His father, Chris Pugh, spoke out on his behalf. 

"We spent a little over six weeks in the hospital in between a neuro rehabilitation facility and the intensive care unit down in Del Seaton just trying to get him back on his feet. For another eight months, [it was] just trying to get him to walk, talk, breathe, and act like a normal person again," said Chris.

In 2022, 29-year-old Joshua Crow died while riding his bike from blunt force trauma to the head and chest. He was on his way back to work at a bar on Rainey Street after forgetting his keys. His sister made sure to tell his story at the meeting.

"It has been extremely difficult to accept. His death occurred during a trip he could probably make in his sleep since he rode the route twice daily for work," said Emmalee Crow, sister of Joshua Crow.

All four cases, including Jasons, were ruled an accident with no tangible evidence to prove otherwise.

"What happened to Jason, what happened to Martin, Christian, Joshua, and all the other victims could easily be answered if we had footage capturing these dangerous, heavy traffic, and high-risk incident areas," said Josh Gale, Jason John's former roommate.

Council member Zo Qadri assured the families work is being done to get lights and cameras installed.

"I'm focused on getting interim lighting until the Trail Conservancy completes the construction from their project, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2023," said Council Member Qadri.

The council is also working on the possibility of having APD Halo Cameras installed in that area as well. It is the action these families have been waiting for.

"If nothing gets done, it will happen again. It's been proven that it keeps happening again. Hopefully this meeting, the change, making some noise will implement some kind of change," said Mitchell.