Area game warden saves life of immigrant teen

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An officer with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department assisted in the rescue of a drowning teen last week while performing his first shift of duty as part of Gov. Rick Perry’s recent authorization of an expanded law enforcement presence along the Rio Grande.The game warden, who has ties to the area, described his ordeal as he and his partner patrolled the river by boat looking to interrupt smuggling and cartel operations originating in Mexico.

“We were patrolling the river and saw a suspected smuggler on the Mexico bank waving at us and pointing at the river,” he said.  “As we got closer we saw someone struggling.”

The officers had been on the water since 4 a.m. investigating a potential illegal border crossing. It was mid-morning when they came across the individual in distress.

“I’ve seen people drowning and knew that’s what was happening,” he said. “I was driving the boat and just as we pulled along side, the boy gave up and slipped beneath.”

The Rio Grande is a challenging river to navigate and its waters are murky. Once the person disappeared underwater, his partner submerged the upper half of his body searching for the boy.

He was able to grab the boy by his hair and bring him to the surface. That is when his automatic life preserver inflated, which prevented him from pulling the subject into the boat. Both officers had to assist in the recovery at that point.

“He was limp and unresponsive and not breathing,” he said.  “I immediately began administering CPR and after about 10-15 chest compressions, his eyes blinked and he started breathing.”

This was the first time the game warden has had to use his CPR skills.

“It happened so quickly I didn’t have time to think,” he explained.

The boy was able to speak and began talking with the officer in Spanish. He wanted to go back to Mexico, but the wardens do not have jurisdiction on that side of the river.

They also learned that the boy was 16 and hailed from Guatemala.

The wardens took the individual to the nearest boat ramp where an ambulance was summoned to check on his status. After he was given the all-clear, the boy was released to the U.S. Border Patrol.

After the handover, both men returned to work patrolling the border. While the officer was very matter-of-fact about the ordeal, he did admit that the experience was very humbling.

“I didn’t want to see this kid die,” he said. “There’s not a game warden that wouldn’t do what me and my partner did.”

He went out of his way to say that the event was a total team effort and they aren’t special — they were just doing what their fellow brothers and sisters in the department would do in a similar situation.

The game wardens spent one week on the border as part of the operation. The only action they saw after this was encountering unoccupied inflatable rafts and rendering them unusable.

Their goal was to disrupt the crime pathways and immigration routes into Texas but ended up saving a life in the process. While they are not scheduled for another tour of the border, the warden is pleased with what he was able to contribute.

“I was glad to go and be a part of it,” he said. “I made the best of it.”  

The names of the game wardens involved in the preceding story are being omitted for operational security  in the ongoing effort to reduce illegal immigration across the Texas/Mexico border.

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