BURNET COUNTY, TX (KXAN) — A tour boat with at least 80 people on board flooded on Lake Buchanan due to the severe storms that ran through Central Texas on Sunday.
The Vanishing Texas River Cruise boat launched from the Burnet County side of the lake, and started taking on water when the storms developed over lake, according to officials. The engine compartment and the boat was disabled, but the captain was able to get the boat to an island safely to wait out the storm.
With the help of several responding agencies, from the Llano County Sheriffs Office to Texas Game Wardens to the Lower Colorado River Authority, those people were able to be shuttled safely back to the mainland via Shaw Island.
Llano County officials confirm as of late Sunday night that there was no damage to the boat and no injuries for anyone on board the boat.
The people taking this river cruise are members of the Bangladeshi community in San Antonio. The group has annual gatherings together and they have made a tradition out of taking this particular cruise. They say their group had 80 people and included many children.
“Temperatures were 100 plus figures, we never expected anything like this,” said Jalal Khan, one fo the people rescued. “We took the cruise ship, we went to the island, and all of a sudden it just started raining.”
Khan said his group enjoyed the rain at first.
“Very quickly the situation changed, it was a big storm basically pounding the ship, and everywhere just panic you know,” Khan said. “A lot of water was coming in and the engine got flooded and all that.”
While Khan and the other cruise-goers were behind the closed doors of the ship, they could see the waves crashing and the trees being tossed in the wind outside.
Texas Game Wardens on scene told KXAN they first got a call about this incident at around 6:30 p.m. Sunday when the boat was beached on Shaw Island as the engine was starting to pick up water.
These boats, the game wardens explained are relatively slow moving.
“You have to have a good boat to get over to them,” explained Burnet County Judge James Oakley.
He is familiar with the cruise boat and explained that it does have a protected cabin area.
“I would commend the efforts of the captain that they got the folks back to a shore,” Oakley said.
Llano County Office of Emergency Management says that 74 people were shuttled off of the island in buses, the others were transported back to the launch area in Burnet County to pick up their cars. After those rescued had grabbed a bite to eat at the Highlander in Burnet, they were safely on their way back to San Antonio.
Al-siam Ferdous, one of the people rescued, recalled the frightening moments Sunday.
“We had a lot of kids, and everything was going through our mind like all the worst [case scanario]” Ferdous said. “However, thank God we came through, we tried to calm ourselves down.”
Ferdous believed it helped that the boat was on shore when the storm hit and that the wind was blowing in their favor — he can’t imagine what would have happened if the wind had been blowing the other way.
He explained that the group had come to the island to swim.
“It was sunny, everything was great,” Ferdous recalled. “Then the captain told us, there is going to be a storm, he cannot take us back, we had to wait until it passed through. We really did not realize the magnitude of the storm, we thought it was a little storm, but really it was very, very severe.”
Ferdous said he was amazed by the help groups in the community offered to all those who needed to be rescued.
“The county, the sheriff’s departments everybody is amazing, I mean thumbs up,” he said. “Often times we think how our taxpayer dollars go, and when you face this kind of situation, you see how nicely they are organized, how candid, how careful, how caring they are, I cannot explain, it’s really awesome.”