Travis County deputies get water rescue kits

Travis County Deputy Jessica Hollis was a strong swimmer and a member of the dive team, but even she could not overcome the power of rushing water. In the wake of her passing, the sheriff has armed his deputies with rescue kits. FOX 7's Noelle Newton gets a look at the potentially life-saving equipment in this week's Crimewatch

"Officers tend to, as a service to their community, they're driven to get where they need to go to help someone and a lot of times they disregard their own safety doing that,” said Sgt. Michael Stroh.

That was perhaps the mindset of Travis County Deputy Jessica Hollis as she approached a low water crossing near Lake Travis during a storm in September of 2014. Her battered patrol car was evidence of the water's fury.

"I think that event sort of helped everyone re-think that mentality. You're not going to be able to help somebody if you have an accident on the way to get there,” said Stroh.

Sergeant Michael Stroh first met Hollis when she served on patrol under his watch. He helped convince her to join the dive team.

"She was a very good swimmer. She was very physically fit. And that's kind of a testament to the low water crossings and everything. Even with someone with all of her skills and ability you're no match for flash flooding,” said Stroh.

At the time of Hollis' death, deputies only carried rope they could throw to a person in distress.

Sheriff Greg Hamilton wanted more protection. He ordered water rescue kits for every deputy.

"This is the water rescue kit officers are issued,” explained Stroh. “Basically, it contains these three items. You've got a throw rope or throw bag, rescue rope, you have a personal floatation device for an officer to wear and this is called a rescue stick. This is kind of an interesting item because what you do is simply toss this to a person in the water. When it hits the water it self-inflates."

"Many times the patrol officer is going to be the first one on scene prior to the fire department,” said Stroh. “They're usually the one that calls the fire department. It's very important for them to be able to take some sort of action to save a life."

To up the safety aspect even more Sheriff Hamilton is requiring deputies to wear the newly-issued life jackets throughout their shift when there is a threat of flash flooding.

"I think it gives the officers a greater since of confidence. For example, when they have this one it's simply a matter of pulling the cord to inflate it. If you don't need it you put it back in the kit when the threat is over with,” said Stroh.

Confident deputies, armed with proper rescue equipment is proof that even though she lost her life, Deputy Hollis will complete the mission she set out to that fateful night.

She will protect the community for years to come.