AUSTIN (KXAN) — More than a dozen friends and family members whose loved ones were found dead in or near Lady Bird Lake — including 30-year-old Jason John — gathered at a special-called meeting of the Austin City Council Public Safety Committee.
“I think their efforts and our efforts [Tuesday] are starting to show some sort of movement forward,” John’s friend Josh Gale said.
Since John’s body was pulled from the lake on Feb. 13, his friends and family have called for more lighting and surveillance on the trail near Rainey street.
Heidi Anderson with The Trail Conservancy said the group and the Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) are now working on both short and long-term plans for additional safety measures that may include lights, surveillance and call boxes on certain parts of the trail. We will update this story when any plans become more definitive.
“It’s inspiring, their passion to make sure that real change happens,” said District 9 Council Member Zo Qadri, who sponsored Tuesday’s agenda item alongside Mayor Kirk Watson. “I don’t want to go into year two and year three and year four and continue to have families that have lost loved ones have to keep reaching out to our office. I want to do this now.”
While John’s death prompted this discussion, family and friends of people who died over the last six years spoke out at the meeting.
They include Mitchell Gutierrez, whose 25-year-old brother Martin drowned in 2018; Emmalee Crow, who said younger brother Joshua left Rainey Street on his bike in July of 2022 and was found dead near the I-35 pedestrian bridge; and Christopher Pugh, whose 21-year-old son Christian was went missing for three days before crews found him near the lake with serious injuries. Christian is still alive.
“Unfortunately all of us are left with this huge gap in our lives. We really need some answers. We just kind of feel like we know it’s more than likely going to happen again,” Pugh said.
Gutierrez said Tuesday’s meeting was “the first time [he] really felt heard,” regarding safety measures near the lake.
“Begging for lighting and surveillance and nothing was ever done. Multiple people have gone missing with no change,” he said.
Crow believes such safety measures not only would have helped her brother – but can continue to help others in similar situations.
“One of the most important things is light along the trail to where anyone who uses the trail will feel safe,” she said. “Another thing I think is really important are cameras. That combination could really help save lives as well as give closure and answers.”