Comal River Tourism

During what would normally be a busy time of the year, only a handful of people are seen relaxing on the Comal River on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020. People may enter the river from a private access point in order to float. MIKALA COMPTON / Herald-Zeitung

No further details were available Tuesday on Friday’s drowning on the Comal River that claimed the life of a 62-year-old New Mexico man.

Police said Albert L. Aranda, 62, from Farmington, New Mexico did not immediately resurface after going through the city Tube Chute. He was pulled from the water but efforts to revive him at the scene and at a New Braunfels hospital were unsuccessful.

David Ferguson, city communications coordinator, said New Braunfels police and fire units arrived on the scene around 3:15 p.m. Friday.

“Officers arrived to find that lifeguards and citizens had pulled the man from the water and lifeguards performed CPR on the man until paramedics arrived on the scene,” he said. “The man was then transported to Christus Santa Rosa Hospital in New Braunfels where he was later pronounced deceased.”

Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Mike Rust ordered an autopsy. Ferguson said pending the results of the autopsy, the man’s death is being investigated as an accidental drowning.

Aranda is the first drowning victim on the Comal since May 30, 2020, when Devon Walton, 22, of Houston, died while tubing with friends. Four have drowned on Canyon Lake this season, the latest being Joel Jijo, 22, of Houston, who was not wearing a lifejacket when he disappeared while swimming on May 29. His body was recovered on June 1.

Comal River reopens following rains

The Comal River reopened to recreation Tuesday morning after heavy rains on Monday closed the venue after river flow increased to nearly 500 cubic feet per second, city officials said.

Ferguson said Monday’s river flow “measured 496 cfs, with poor water clarity and debris along the riverbanks and at the Tube Chute dam,” following rains that dumped up to 2 inches of rain in parts of the city, according to weather officials.

Tuesday morning, the river flow had decreased to 299 cfs, below the 400 cfs threshold usually required to consider closing the venue.

“Minor amounts of debris have been cleaned up by city staff and the clarity of the water on the Comal River is returning to normal,” Ferguson said. “However, river-goers should still be cautious about debris that may not be visible under the water’s surface. And, as always, NBPD encourages the use of life vests while participating in any water-related activity.”

Ferguson said National Weather Service forecasters are predicting additional thunderstorms over the next several days, which will play a role in future decisions by city officials.

“Recreation on the Guadalupe River inside the city limits of New Braunfels has not been affected by recent rains and so access to the Guadalupe River remains open for recreation,” he added. “Please remember to turn around, don’t drown whenever you see water over a roadway and never drive around barricades.”

The NWS unofficially recorded 1.74 inches of rain at New Braunfels Regional Airport between 3 p.m. Sunday and 1 p.m. Tuesday. It forecasted a 70% chance of rain for the rest of Tuesday, decreasing to 30% chance overnight before increasing to 60% throughout Wednesday.

CCSO, NBPD have normal weekend

New Braunfels and Comal County law enforcement officials reported a normal July 4 holiday weekend. Fifty-eight individuals were booked into the Comal County Jail between Friday and early Tuesday, most charged with driving while intoxicated and public intoxication.

The Comal County Sheriff’s Office received 858 service calls.

“CCSO deputies conducted 258 traffic stops over the weekend, responded to 22 crashes, and responded to 18 calls for fireworks,” CCSO Lt. Mike Smith said.

Deputies responded to 20 service calls on River Road, he added.

“One resulted in an arrest for an outstanding Class C warrant and one resulted in an arrest for assault causes bodily injury/family violence,” Smith said. “Our river teams only issued one citation.”

The New Braunfels Police Department received 1,036 total service calls over the weekend that included approximately 135 firework-related calls.

Ferguson said police responded to 43 vehicle accidents and conducted 176 traffic stops. Police totaled no river arrests during the period but issued 75 citations, mostly for parking violations.

Drug bust nets meth

At 12:34 a.m. July 1, police patrolling Interstate 35 pulled over a vehicle suspected of speeding in the 1600 block of I-35 South’s northbound frontage road.

“An officer on patrol observed a black Dodge Charger traveling down I-35 at a high rate of speed,” Ferguson said, adding an officer initiated a traffic stop of the vehicle in front of the shopping center.

“The officer detected the odor of marijuana inside the vehicle,” Ferguson said, adding the female driver, female passenger and male passenger were all detained. A search of the car turned up drug paraphernalia coated with small amounts of “crystal-like” substances.

“There were things they said that led to other things,” Ferguson said. “In the backseat, where the male was sitting, was a medium-sized travel bag containing numerous items of paraphernalia, and another black bag inside of it that contained a larger stash of methamphetamine.”

Ferguson said that total came to 93.95 grams of meth. Also confiscated was about $1,300 in cash. Donald Alan Belzung Jr., 31, of San Antonio, was taken to the county lockup and charged with manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance, penalty group 1, between 4 and 200 grams. He remained in Comal County Jail on Tuesday under $50,000 bond.

Ferguson said the two women, ages 43 and 38, both from San Antonio, were not charged. He said additional charges could be pending.

Vehicle veers off Loop 337 onto I-35

New Braunfels police and fire units closed down part of I-35 Monday evening after a car failed to veer left across the Rueckle Road overpass and instead crashed upside down onto the interstate.

Ferguson said the car was traveling eastbound at a high rate of speed on Loop 337 when it missed the bridge and landed in the southbound lanes before winding up in the northbound lanes. NBFD Capt. Jeremy Van Ausdall said units arrived at the accident scene, in the 3200 block of Interstate 35 South around 9:41 p.m.

“When we got there she was in the northbound lanes just south of the overpass,” Van Ausdall said. “How she got there, from our perspective, is under speculation. When we left the scene, the police were recreating the accident scene.”

Van Ausdall said the driver was a New Braunfels woman in her 30s, who was initially transported in critical condition to Resolute Hospital in New Braunfels but was later transferred to San Antonio Military Medical Center.

There were no other passengers in the vehicle, Van Ausdall said, adding the last NBFD units cleared the scene around 11:46 p.m. No details on the woman’s identity or condition were immediately available Tuesday afternoon.

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