Lake patrol improves response times with new boats

The Montgomery County Precinct 1 Lake Patrol has three new boats that will help increase supervision and improve response times as activity on Lake Conroe heats up during the summer.

The new boats replaced three older ones in the fleet.

Citing a recovering economy, Precinct 1 Marine Division Sgt. Randy Sanson expects a busier summer season than previous years.

The boats, which had a combined price tag of $113,000, were purchased by Constable Don Chumley to replace aging boats. Despite the cost, Precinct 1 Marine Division Sgt. Randy Sanson views the additions as “tremendous assets.”

“Money has no value when it comes to saving lives,” he said.

In addition, the new models will allow the patrol greater diversity of resources when responding to a scene. The 21-foot boats have shallower hulls, which equates to more maneuverability in shallower water.

“These boats give us the opportunity to jump on whichever (boat) is needed,” Sanson said.

The replacements include two 21-foot boats and one 24-foot Boston Whaler Criminal Justice boat. The latter was decided on as a worthy addition to the fleet after the patrol saw footage of one model being shot up with a .50 caliber machine gun. The boat then carried 11 people over standing water despite the hull damage.

“What sold us is the fact that the hull took that much damage and the boat (was still) floating,” Sanson said.

Previously, the Lake Patrol had run into some difficulties regarding the successful operation of boats. Sometimes, it would take the patrol two boats to perform a rescue due to the aged vehicles when one should have been enough, Sanson said. The previous vessels had been in use since the late 1990s.

On Wednesday, the Lake Patrol performed a water rescue on an 82-year-old woman involved in a personal watercraft accident. The shallow-water-friendly boats allowed the patrol to conduct the rescue in a timely manner.

Sanson is thankful for Chumley’s influence in acquiring the funding for the vessels from Commissioners Court.

“His service record did this,” Sanson said.

Despite the new boats, no changes will be made in the Lake Conroe Marine Division staffing. The Lake Patrol includes five men on as many boats.

The Marine Division was formed in the early 1980s to preside over Lake Conroe. The Marine Division works with the San Jacinto River Authority to ensure the safety of boaters and residents on the lake.

For those who plan to go out on the lake this summer, Sanson offers one key piece of safety advice.

“Always wear a life jacket,” he said. “They float; you don’t.”

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