Game wardens use new equipment as South Texas community mobilizes to save boy trapped in well


Three Texas game wardens and an army of rescuers converged around a hole in the ground near Garceno.

Almost a fifth of the way down a narrow but deep hole, a four-year-old boy was stranded and in dire need of help. Rescuers acted quickly to provide fresh air and keep the child alive.

Texas game wardens Carlos Maldonado, Michael Patrick and Lane Turner used a tool they had only received a few days earlier to do this. The Dec. 8 well rescue in Starr County was the first time game wardens in Texas have deployed their new oxygen resuscitation kits.

“When I got it, I first thought, ‘the only way to use it is on the water’. And it really became clear when we had it that night, that we can give oxygen to anyone. It was in a situation I never would have imagined, but it happened, ”said Maldonado, who served as a manager for 12 years in Jim Hogg County.

The trio of guardians were among dozens of participants in a regional collaboration to save the child.

“Every tool, every aspect, every professional, every person who has undergone specialized training was there and used. Entrance was made from all sides; fires, EMS and law enforcement, ”said Maldonado.

Game wardens and other first responders kept the oxygen flowing as firefighters from several departments dug by hand and used pneumatic tools to cut a hole next to the boy before breaking through a gap to extract him. Rescuers had to use pneumatic chisels to get through the hard, dry caliche and use a vacuum truck to remove the dirt.

After about six hours in the hole in which he maintained constant contact with his rescuers, the boy was safely extracted and airlifted to a nearby hospital for testing. The boy has since been released and is doing well, according to the Starr County Sheriff’s Office.

Edinburgh Fire Chief Shawn Snider said the hole was about the same diameter as a can of coffee and the boy was stuck about nine and a half feet deep. Once the child was removed, Snider used a rope to measure the entire hole and found it 44 feet deep.

“So it could have been the worst-case scenario if it had gone deeper and deeper, if it hadn’t been hooked up where it did,” said Snider, who added that the hands of the boy were initially tied with a rope to prevent him from falling further.

This photo shows the depth of the narrow well from which a four-year-old South Texas boy was rescued.

Courtesy of Shawn Snider

Across departments and counties, the rescue has highlighted how communities in South Texas come together in times of need. Starr County Sheriff Rene “Orta” Fuentes acknowledged these entities and individuals in a Facebook post: La Rosita Fire Department, Mission Fire Department, Pharr Fire Department, Edinburg Fire Department, McAllen Fire Department, Roma Fire Department, Escobares Fire Department, Hidalgo County Emergency Management Coordinator Ricardo “Rick” Saldana, Starr County EMS, Texas Department of Public Safety, US Border Patrol, City of Rio Grande, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Starr County Precinct 1 Public Works, El Sauz Water Supply, Garceno Builders, R & R Wrecker Service, Rivera’s Wrecker Service, Luis Falcon, AirMed, Falcon Septic Cleaning, Freddy Escobar, Pastor Luis Silva of Bethel Missions and Joe Medrano for food and beverages.

“This is how we react here. We are responding as a region, ”said Robert Alvarez, deputy chief of the Mission Fire Department in neighboring Hidalgo County.

The role of the Texas Game Rangers in this community response has been strengthened by the launch of their new equipment. Maldonado said his outlook on oxygen resuscitation kits had changed due to the incident.

“We now know it’s not just for the water. It is a tool that we can use anywhere; from bitumen brush to a little boy trapped in a well or someone who has emerged from a potential drowning situation, ”said Maldonado.

“Other agencies should see it as a viable tool that could potentially save a life one day. “

For game wardens, it is a tool that expands the already versatile capabilities of the state’s “off-road police force”.

“Game wardens are the Swiss army knife of law enforcement. We are off the beaten track; we are usually the first to respond to a myriad of incidents. So we have to be ready for anything. And that’s a shining example, ”said Cody Jones, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department deputy commander for marine law enforcement.

Jones said the agency’s first oxygen resuscitation kits began rolling out in late August and guards trained in October and November. State park game wardens and police officers received 500 kits statewide. Most Field Guards now wear one.

The kits were acquired with $ 250,000 which was obtained during the last legislative session; an effort led by Texas House President Dennis Bonnen and inspired by the work of Rory the Warrior, Inc.

Founders Sherry and Jason Sheffield met with game wardens as part of their lifelong work to raise awareness of the importance of emergency oxygen. Rory The Warrior is named after their son, who drowned in August 2016.

In December 2020, the legacy of three-year-old Rory saved the life of a four-year-old in South Texas.

“It still affects people’s lives. If it hadn’t happened to us, we wouldn’t be doing this. I always tell people, ‘he was just too special of a little boy not to do something on his behalf,’ ”said Sherry Sheffield.

The meetings with President Bonnen and the game wardens were the first time Rory The Warrior had been involved in legislative action. The organization’s mission focuses primarily on installing oxygen kits in the personal vehicles of first responders.

Sheffield said since July 2018, donations have funded more than 160 “hero bagsWhich includes an oxygen kit and various first aid items. She said the kits helped save four lives.

Her son died in part due to the remoteness, which underscores the need for game wardens to carry emergency oxygen. First responders arrived within minutes to help Rory, but an ambulance with oxygen was 25 minutes away.

She said every first responder should have one because her training can be used anytime, anywhere; during holidays or out of service. Sheffield said the kits can also reduce mental trauma for first responders, amplified by the desperation of not having the necessary equipment.

Sheffield was elated when she learned of the County Starr rescue. It was the blessed assurance that Rory The Warrior’s work was not in vain.

We just don’t want a family to experience a loss when it could be avoided, ”she said.

“The fact that this family doesn’t have to live means everything to us. That they don’t have to go through this nightmare.

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