GLEN ROSE - What was supposed to be a day of fun turned tragic Tuesday when 16-year-old Courtney Elizabeth Butler of Stephenville went missing in the Paluxy River in Somervell County.
The tragedy was then compounded on Wednesday morning when Teyran “Ty” Patterson, 28, a Texas Parks and Wildlife game warden, drowned during a search-and-rescue operation to locate Butler.
The search for Butler began about 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday when the Somervell County Sheriff’s Department was notified that the teenager was missing. Butler and a group of friends were near a low water crossing when one of the teens swimming in the water began struggling, Texas Department of Public Safety trooper Dub Gillum said.
Gillum said Butler jumped in to help save her friend, but then disappeared, apparently overcome by the “churning effect” of the raging floodwaters.
Gillum said the river, which is higher than usual because of recent rains, was churning so violently that it created a suction that is virtually inescapable.
“It’s like a washing machine,” he said. “It is constantly churning and if someone is caught in it, it’s nearly impossible to get out.”
Sheriff deputies, game wardens and volunteer fire fighters searched for Butler until dark Tuesday. The search resumed at daybreak Wednesday, when Patterson and Danny Tuggle, 58, a game warden for 25 years, joined the effort to find the missing teen.
Patterson and Tuggle were in a flat bottom boat used for search and rescue operations when it began filling with water and capsized. Sheriff Greg Doyle and three deputies, one of whom is a swift water rescue specialist, formed a human chain and used recovery rope lines to reach the two men, Gillum said.
“They dove into the water and pulled (Tuggle) out,” Gillum said. “But they couldn’t get to (Patterson) in time.”
When rescuers were finally able to pull Patterson from the water, they immediately began CPR in an attempt to revive him, Gillum said.