New safeguards eyed for jetty area




First responders recover a truck from the ship channel at the south jetty in Port Aransas on Tuesday, April 9. A woman was found dead inside the truck. Police said she drove the truck into the ship channel by accident. Nueces County officials are looking into ways to safeguard the jetty to prevent people from driving onto the jetty and into the ship channel. Staff photo by Elizabeth Weaver

First responders recover a truck from the ship channel at the south jetty in Port Aransas on Tuesday, April 9. A woman was found dead inside the truck. Police said she drove the truck into the ship channel by accident. Nueces County officials are looking into ways to safeguard the jetty to prevent people from driving onto the jetty and into the ship channel. Staff photo by Elizabeth Weaver

Nueces County officials are looking into ways to safeguard the south jetty at I.B. Magee Jr. Beach Park to prevent people from driving onto the jetty and into the ship channel.

Lynna Koehn, 58, of Blanco, was found dead in the wreckage of a pickup truck after it plunged off the south jetty and into the ship channel on the evening of Monday, April 8.

The south jetty is made up of a sidewalk and granite rocks next to the channel known as the Aransas Pass. Along some stretches of the jetty, beach sand reaches within only a few inches of the top of the sidewalk, and there are no rocks present in some of those areas to prevent a vehicle from easily getting onto the jetty.

There are no lights on the jetty, which could make it still easier for a driver who is impaired or unfamiliar with the area to accidentally drive up onto the jetty and into the channel at night.

I.B. Magee Jr. Beach Park is a county park. Scott Cross, director of Nueces County Coastal Parks, said he plans to reach out the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week about adding some type of obstacles to keep people from driving onto the jetty.

At some locations along the south jetty, the jetty’s sidewalk extends only a few inches above the adjacent beach sand, which means it isn’t hard for vehicles to make the bad move of getting up on the jetty, whether by accident or on purpose. A woman died after driving a pickup truck onto the jetty on Sunday, April 7, and plunging into the nearby ship channel. Staff photo by Dan Parker

At some locations along the south jetty, the jetty’s sidewalk extends only a few inches above the adjacent beach sand, which means it isn’t hard for vehicles to make the bad move of getting up on the jetty, whether by accident or on purpose. A woman died after driving a pickup truck onto the jetty on Sunday, April 7, and plunging into the nearby ship channel. Staff photo by Dan Parker

The jetty is owned and maintained by the Corps of Engineers, but the county leases an approximately 10-foot-wide easement of land that is right up against the jetty from the federal agency. Because of this, the county has to coordinate projects on that land through the agency, Cross said.

“In my opinion, one of the best things we could do is … put up granite blocks to where you can’t drive all the way up to the sidewalk, but you still have breaks in there to where you can walk up and get on the sidewalk,” Cross said.

Bollards also could be installed in front of the sidewalk if granite blocks aren’t used, he said.

Corps of Engineers officials might determine that adding such safeguards is their responsibility, Cross said.

An investigation by the Port Aransas Police Department has shown that Koehn was the driver when the truck went into the channel, said Sgt. Joseph Rivas, a detective with department.

Koehn had one passenger: Daniel Darliek, 54, of Port Lavaca, who got out of the water on his own after the accident. He was treated for minor injuries and released from the scene after he gave police a statement.

Rivas said he didn’t know why Koehn drove the truck into the channel, but he said he believes it was an accident that was “alcohol-related.” Darliek told police he and Koehn had been drinking, Rivas said.

The police department is waiting on lab results from the Nueces County Medical Examiner’s Office to see what Koehn’s blood-alcohol content was, Rivas said.

Police aren’t expected to receive the report until 90 days after the date of the incident.

Koehn drove the truck 429 feet – more than the length of a football field – westward down the jetty before the vehicle went into the channel, Rivas said.

As it traveled down the jetty, the passenger side of the truck was on the sidewalk, and the driver’s side was on the sand, the detective said.

At one point, the truck’s wheel hit a stack of rocks in the sand and got stuck. Koehn accelerated to get over the hump, and that launched the truck over the jetty into the channel, Rivas said.

The top of the sidewalk is probably about 18 inches higher than the sand in the area where the truck first got up onto the jetty sidewalk, Rivas said.

“There wasn’t that much difficulty to get (on) it,” Rivas said about Koehn driving up onto the jetty.

Contact Kathryn Cargo at reporter@portasouthjetty.com.

3 responses to “New safeguards eyed for jetty area”

  1. TADDY MCALLISTER says:

    One idiot drives her truck over the jetty and now we have to have more infrastructure?

  2. tturby@gmail.com says:

    Overreaction!!! The Jetty is over 100 years old. How many times has this happened??
    Don’t inhibit people from parking right next to sidewalk or backing their pickup next to it. It’s part of PA’s charm. Prayers for the family

  3. Bill Grozdanich says:

    So help me understand… one driver out of millions who have driven to the jetty drives in. Now we’ll spend hundred of thousands of dollars of not millions and ruin the experience for those who are aware enough to not to drive into the water?

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