Parades of boaters bearing Trump flags and other regalia have been a thing this summer, and in keeping with that theme, multiple vessels convened on Lake Travis, northwest of Austin. The lake has a reputation for being difficult to navigate.
Gina Bahel of Liberty Hill said she supported the event from the shore, since she herself wasn’t able to go out on the water.
“I don’t have a boat, so I wanted to watch the parade and do my best to support four more years of our president,” she said.
Event organizer Pacey Chynoweth said that the ersatz flotilla was a safe way for people to support Trump without having to worry about being too close to each other during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the middle of this COVID thing… this is a safe, effective way that we can socially distance. We can be in groups of ten or less,” she said.
For much of the afternoon, the supporters of the president enjoyed their day on the water, in some cases maneuvering around each other in close proximity.
A local news station shared video of hundreds if not thousands of watercraft in close quarters with each other on the lake.
That would prove to be their undoing, however. As BBC News reported, authorities believe that the large number of watercraft on the lake that day, many of which were perilously close to others, caused the waters to become choppy.
Soon, local officials were receiving distress calls.
In a tweet, the Travis County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that officers were responding. Further, the agency noted that several boats did, in fact, sink.
TCSO responded to multiple calls involving boats in distress during the Trump parade on Lake Travis. Several boats did sink.
— Travis County SO (@TravisCoSheriff) September 5, 2020
One witness reported seeing the waves cause one vessel to be slammed into another.
Travis County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Kristen Dark, in a statement, noted the “exceptional” number of craft on the water that day, suggesting that this may have caused the incident.
“We responded to multiple calls of boats in distress, several of them sank. We had an exceptional number of boats on the lake today… When they all started moving at the same time, it generated significant waves,” she said.
At least four boats sank, according to Slate, and an unknown number of people were pulled from the water. There are no reports of injuries.
One person at the event did have a “medical episode” and required treatment from emergency medical services, but that incident was not related to the sinking boats.