Two missing, Lake Travis swimmers involve intensive searching over past few weeks

Kristen Dark, Senior Public Information Officer with the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, provides an update on two swimmers who went missing on Lake Travis this month. Leslee Bassman

Travis County partners with state, local agencies to find male, female


By LESLEE BASSMAN, Four Points News

Over the past several weeks, multiple state and local agencies have been searching the Lake Travis waters for two missing swimmers from separate incidents.

“Lake Travis is an absolutely gorgeous asset that our county has. But it is a body of water that needs to be taken seriously, and that’s something we’ve seen evidence of already this year,” said Kristen Dark, senior public information officer with the Travis County Sheriff’s Office. TCSO held a news briefing on May 22.

The most recent swimmer went missing Saturday, May 19 after being last seen falling off a party boat on Lake Travis, Dark said. The department and supporting agencies have executed sonar and dive searches in the lake, including a deep dive down to 120 feet, Dark said.

On May 21, Houston Police Department joined the local search efforts.

“They came out and executed bottom search mechanical sonar. They’ve also got a remote-operated vehicle and executed that (Monday, May 21),” Dark said.  

They also searched on May 22 before they had to return and were no longer be able to assist.

As of presstime, the two swimmers were still missing in Lake Travis despite search efforts.

“Neither body has been found…  we have completed all sonar and dives in search of the missing woman,” Dark said. “Moving forward, our lake patrol deputies will conduct surface and shoreline searches during the course of their patrol duties.

Dark said recovery efforts associated with locating Manuel Salas of Elgin — who went missing May 5 and who was last seen on Lake Travis — have been suspended. TCSO has attempted to find Salas through sonar, deep diver assistance, helicopter assistance, canine searches as well as surface and shoreline searches, Dark said. The agency’s lake patrol deputies will continue to perform daily surface and shoreline searches throughout the Memorial Day weekend.

Dark said Lake Travis is not a normal lake with sloped sides but is instead a flooded canyon in which the sides can drop sharply.

“You can be in three feet of water and you can take one step and be in 15 feet of water,” she said.

As a flooded canyon, the lake contains full-grown trees, orchards, houses, docks and cars. Swimmers cannot see the lake bottom due to its poor visibility, she said.

“When you are in the lake, the depths are extreme, the visibility is low, the shoreline is not near you,” Dark said. “And, if you get into trouble, the only thing you have going for you is your flotation device.”

She said Salas was not wearing a flotation device when he went missing. TPWD declined to comment on whether or not the female swimmer who fell from a party boat was wearing a life jacket due to an ongoing investigation.

Travis C​​ounty Sheriff’s Office staff and supporting agencies comb Lake Travis today in search of a missing swimmer who fell from a party boat on Saturday. Leslee Bassman