Poorly-marked boat ramp cited in near-tragedy

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on January 29, 2012 at 11:04 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 4 at 3:47 PM

Robertson Park

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LAKE RAY HUBBARD — One day after a dramatic water rescue on Lake Ray Hubbard, there is concern about whether some boat ramps along the shore are too easily mistaken for roads.

Shortly before 1 a.m. Saturday Ngac Do, 20, and her cousin, Nhi Tran, 21, became trapped in their sinking Honda Civic after Do drove onto a boat ramp and directly into the frigid waters.

"At night, their lights don't hit that water until it's almost too late," said Rockwall County Sheriff Harold Eavenson. "I could see how they could drive off in there."

The community college students became lost trying to return to their Garland home after dinner Friday night.

"The water start coming in the car. It was scary," Do said, adding she never saw the water until it surrounded the car. "It's dangerous for people."

Rockwall County Deputy Keven Rowan spotted the partly-submerged vehicle while on patrol. He swam to the sinking sedan, shattered the rear passenger window, and pulled the two women out... moments before the car slipped beneath the surface.

"When I got to the car, they barely had any room to breathe in the vehicle," the five-year deputy said.

The boat ramp sits just south of Interstate 30 at Robertson Park. Drivers exiting the highway loop onto Dalrock Road which — after a stop sign — leads directly into the water.

"I've heard people say it almost looks like an on-ramp, like where you go get on the highway," Rowan said. The concern is especially great at night, he added, since there are almost no street lights in the area.

Two months ago, Rowan said, another confused driver drove off a similar boat ramp nearby. That driver was able to escape and swim to shore.

While approaching the lake, two fading signs warn drivers, although one sits partially buried, barely displaying the word "ramp" instead of "ramp ahead." Deputy Rowan said barricades used to block one lane leading to the water, but they apparently snapped away long ago.

"People have hit them and broken them so much, that I guess they just haven't been replaced," he said.

Robertson Park is owned by the City of Dallas. In the past, city leaders have considered selling the 257-acre lakefront park to raise funds for the cash-strapped city. A city spokesperson did not return calls for comment Sunday about the ramps or the markings.

Sheriff Eavenson says he plans to discuss with Dallas leaders how to better alert drivers to roads that turn into boat ramps.

"A flashing light would help a great deal," he said. "It needs to be improved."

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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