SAN ANTONIO (CN) – A woman whose parents drowned while tubing on the Guadalupe River claims in court that the outfitter is to blame for renting them equipment though the currents were so strong that day that the nearest city, New Braunfels, prohibited tubing in those conditions.
Maria Del Carmen Reza Farias of Nuevo Leon, Mexico, and her family sued Kona Coast Venture dba The Hideout at Whitewater Sports, of New Braunfels, and two of its managers, Daryl Burttschell and William Korioth.
Reza claims that in September 2010 she, her sister Evangelina, and her parents took a fatal trip down the Texas river. Kona Coast rented them the tubing equipment and provided shuttle service along the river, but did not warn them that the river was flowing dangerously fast, and provided her mother with an ill-fitting life jacket, Reza says.
“Upon arrival at the Whitewater Sports location in New Braunfels, the family noticed that the Guadalupe River appeared to be higher and running faster than what they had observed on past visits to the city,” the complaint states. “The family specifically asked if the river was safe to float that day. The Whitewater Sports employee on duty informed the family that tubing was perfectly safe that day if instructions were followed concerning dam crossing. The family then rented tubes for all and life jackets for [parents] Mario and Maria Andrea. The jacket supplied for Maria Andrea did not fit well.
“The flow rate on the river that day, noted by the Comal County Sheriff’s Office and recorded by the United States Department of the Interior Geological Survey, was well in excess of 1,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) at all times pertinent to this incident. Tubing on the Guadalupe River is prohibited by the City of New Braunfels at these flow levels. This fact was well-known to the management of Whitewater Sports but was unknown to the family.”
Reza says her family hugged the riverbank as they passed over the Kanz dam on their first go-around, as the flow of the river prevented them from floating over the center as instructed.
The family used Whitewater Sports’ shuttle service and went tubing again along the same route.
The complaint describes what happened next: “While the family was later exiting the river as instructed by Whitewater Sports staff, Mr. [Mario] Morquecho’s wife, Maria Andrea, was unable to paddle to shore in time to make an exit at the designated location due to the strong pull of the river’s currents.
“A Whitewater staff employee and representative witnessed the situation and told the family that they could rejoin Maria Andrea and be picked up at the next take-out point. Instructions were repeated to be sure to float through the middle of the Kanz low head dam.
“Floating toward the next take-out point, the family came to the Kanz low head dam. “On this second trip over the Kanz dam, the family followed the Whitewater staff’s instructions to the letter. Maria Andrea floated over the center of the dam safely and remained upright on her tube. However, due to the hydraulics created by the high volume stream flow over the dam, Maria Andrea was not able to exit the hydraulic downstream and was trapped in her tube in the hydraulic. Evangelina and Carmen floated over the center of the dam next. Mario followed over the center of the dam. “When Mario crossed the dam and entered the hydraulic, his tube was upset and he became caught in the hydraulic. Mario was unable to escape the hydraulic without assistance. Evangelina was able to come to the aid of her father and pull him to safety.
“Next, since Maria Andrea was still trapped (even though she was seated in her tube) in the rapid current and strong hydraulic of the dam, Evangelina swam over and tried to pull Maria Andrea out of the hydraulic. Carmen swam over to assist in the rescue attempt. As the two sisters were attempting to pull Maria Andrea out of the hydraulic, Maria Andrea flipped out of her tube and was pulled under water by the tremendous force of the hydraulic created by the rapidly flowing river water over the dam.
“Maria Andrea panicked and started pulling Carmen underwater. Evangelina frantically tried to pull both her mother and sister out of the hydraulic. Evangelina even tried pulling their hair in an attempt to pull their heads up out of the water.
“Evangelina managed to free her sister Carmen from the hydraulic and Carmen managed to swim to safety in the direction of her father.
“Evangelina again focused her rescue efforts on her mother. She managed to pull her mother’s head out of the water for a brief period of time and attempted to free her mother from the life jacket that her mother was wearing. Evangelina was unable to free her mother from the life jacket and was unable to pull her from the grip of the hydraulic.
“Mario then made his way to Maria Andrea to join in the rescue attempt. He too was pulled under by the hydraulics of the dam and never resurfaced on his own.
“Exhausted and unable to rescue either of their parents from the deadly clutches of the extremely hazardous hydraulic, Evangelina and Carmen managed to make their way to a safer portion of the river. However, due to the extremely powerful current, they were unable to make it to the bank and were later rescued by fire and EMS personnel.
“Several bystanders joined in the rescue attempt, but were unable to save the lives of Mario and Maria Andrea. They were able to eventually extricate the bodies and were then also stranded in the rapidly-flowing water and had to be rescued by fire and EMS personnel.
“Evangelina and Carmen remained trapped for hours in the cold rushing waters of the Guadalupe while their drowned parents were held in the same rushing waters by those bystanders.”
The sisters’ parents “were pronounced dead at the scene.”
Defendant Korioth served on the board of directors of the Water Oriented Recreation District of Comal County, according to the complaint.
Maria Reza sued on behalf of her parents’ estates and her five siblings. She seeks damages for wrongful death, negligence, and gross negligence.
She is represented by Derrel Luce of Waco.