On Dec. 4, two fishermen were boating near Lake Amistad, 10 minutes north of Del Rio, Texas, hoping to make a big catch for a fishing competition being held there.
But instead of making the catch, they were the ones who got caught when they ran into a nearly invisible sandbar.
Bart Giles and a friend were the fishermen who set out that morning with big hopes.
“We were supposed to be fishing a tournament that day,” Giles told KENS5-TV. “We were running up the river, and it’s a route I’ve taken a bunch of times.”
As they navigated the familiar river, Giles spotted an overturned canoe and decided to double back and investigate to make sure no one was in distress.
“Just all of a sudden, the water dropped,” Giles said. “In that early morning light, it looked like water all the way across there, so when I went to turn around, it was just mud.
“When I got out of the boat, I just sunk straight down. As soon as I stepped off the boat, I was up to my chest in just mud.”
“We’re like, well, all we can do is just hope somebody sees us, get someone’s attention or figure out a way to get out of this.”
They were stranded with no cell phone service and no way to get back to solid ground. They were sitting ducks until someone heard Giles blowing on his whistle and called for help.
“What saved me, and the game wardens will love this, is the one little thing everybody makes fun of, is just a whistle,” said Giles.
Hours later, Texas game wardens arrived, but they couldn’t reach the two men in their own boat because of the sandbar. Meanwhile, Giles’ boat continued to settle into the sandbar.
So a three-man crew from the San Antonio Police Department Helicopter Detail flew in to save the day, which was quickly coming to a close.
“By the time the call came out, the day was getting short and daylight was running out,” Chief Certified Flight Instructor with San Antonio Police Helicopter Detail Garret Hunter said.
“We were playing the, against the clock,” crew chief and helicopter pilot with SAPD Roy Rodriguez explained. “We had about 20-minute window once we got there before it got dark.”
Though the three weren’t familiar with the area, they cited their extensive cross-training with other agencies as giving them the skills they needed to navigate a rescue in the area.
Within 15 minutes, the helicopter picked up the two men, deposited them on solid ground and were headed back home.
“They gave me a thumbs up that they were okay, and … that’s all the contact we had with them,” Rodriguez said.
The SAPD has since posted video of the rescue showing the team quickly executing the rescue.
“With nightfall fast approaching, EAGLE launched from Stinson Airport to conduct the rescue,” the description on the video read.
“EAGLE arrived on scene and communicated with Texas Parks and Wildlife and Texas DPS aircraft already on scene (non-rescue helicopter) to set up a staging area. The 2 fishermen were successfully rescued by hoisting them out of the boat and dropping them off at the staging area with Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Wardens.”
Giles was certainly thankful for their assistance and knows to be more careful in the area now.
“Thank you for coming and helping because it was definitely a tough situation,” Giles said. “I just can’t say it enough, we appreciate all the help.”
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