Following at least two drownings while tubing on the same Texas river, a family has filed a lawsuit against the rental company in an effort to require stronger safety measures, including mandatory wearing of life jackets.
On July 4, 2017, the New Braunsfels police department announced they had found the body of 29-year-old Jorge Chapa Gonzalez in the Comal River, who disappeared while tubing in the river. According to local news sources, the Baytown resident had rented a tube to float on the river for the day and was not required to wear a life jacket or any type of personal floatation device.
The report comes just a year after a tubing death was reported last year on the fourth of July, when 47-year-old Curtis Goldman, a Universal City resident, drowned in the Comal River while tubing.
Local authorities reported that Goldman’s final moments were witnessed by family and other tubers, as he fell off the tube and struggled to stay afloat until he went under water and never resurfaced. First responders were called and conducted a five-hour search for Goldman until night time approached. The search was suspended until the following morning, when Tuesday, July 5, 2016, a local diver called authorities reporting having located Goldman’s body in the Comal River.
As a result of the tragic and fatal drownings, Goldman’s family filed a lawsuit against Texas Tubes, the company who rented the tube to Goldman the day he disappeared. Goldman’s family claims Texas Tubes needs to implement stronger safety standards and require customers to wear life jackets when tubing on the river.
According to the family’s lawsuit, Texas Tubes does not require renters to sign a waiver. A life jacket is included in the rental agreement, however it is optional whether the customer wishes to accept and use the flotation device.
Hundreds of companies across the United States offer tubing rentals on rivers where individuals and groups can rent a floating tube to ride down rivers, relaxing and enjoying the summer weather. These types of water activities are typically not monitored by lifeguards or life-saving personnel, leaving the rider’s responsible for their own safety.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association strongly advices individuals always wear a personal floatation device, like a life jacket, when partaking in any style of tubing activity, whether floating on a river, or being towed behind a boat. Wearing a Class I U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket is highly recommended, as these jackets are designed to surface an individual and keep their head above water, to prevent drowning.
When tubing in rivers, riders should always be aware of their surroundings and the current of the river. In fast moving currents, objects in the water such as rocks beds or downed tree branches can create reverse currents on the other side of the obstacle. In the event an individual is caught in this reverse current on the other side of the rock, the current can trap the person, posing a drowning hazard.
Downed trees or branches can also create entrapment and drowning hazards. Often times, these objects are hard to notice since they may be just below the water surface, and the tube could be punctured, leaving the rider stranded in the water.