KRLD Investigation: Lewisville Lake Has More BWI Arrests Than Any Other Texas Lake Since 2013

L.P. Phillips
August 02, 2018 - 7:30 am
LLewisville Lake/Denton County Game Wardens Jerry Norris (left) and Josh Espinoza patrolling Lewisville Lake

L.P. Phillips


LEWISVILLE (1080 KRLD) - It's a ritual on Lewisville Lake. Boaters, by the dozens, anchor off the shore near The Colony to watch the Fourth of July fireworks display. Admittedly, to Denton County Game Warden Jerry Norris, there are worse duties. Unless you are talking about the 2016 show.

That's the night a drunken boater threw his engine into high gear and tore through the sea of boats. "Pretty sure he was running from us," said Norris. "He was traveling on a plane, which is full speed for a vessel through all of these anchored and stopped vessels in darkness. It's just a miracle he didn't hit anybody. I had a couple other game wardens on the boat with me and they said that's the scaredest (sic) they've been trying to catch up to a vessel because y'all is gonna hurt somebody."

The man was eventually caught, found to be intoxicated, arrested, tried and convicted.

Drunken boaters are nothing new to Norris. A KRLD News investigation shows that since 2013, Lewisville Lake has led the state in arrests for boating while intoxicated (BWI), the boating version of drunk driving.

According to statistics from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, from January 1, 2013, through July 10, 2018, Lewisville Lake led the way in BWI arrests with 65. Close behind was Possum Kingdom Lake with 64. The next closest North Texas lake on the list was Lake Ray Hubbard with 18 and Lake Sam Rayburn with 15. This year alone there have been 18 BWI arrests on Lewisville Lake, already more than last year's total of 13. 

Why is Lewisville Lake so popular with the drinking crowd? Part of it, Norris says, is the layout of the lake. There are numerous marinas and rural boat ramps. 

But the single biggest draw is an area on the southwest side known as Party Cove. It's a sheltered area near Lake Park. On summer weekends, there could be boats on the order of several dozen to hundreds. They gather in a cluster. Some tie together, others just anchor to be part of the scene. The location of the boat clot depends on the wind. There are things that are constant: Loud music, someone dancing and booze. 

Lots of booze.

"Behaving yourself is kind of relative. It gets pretty rowdy out here, sometimes." Norris says as he pilots his boat toward the cove. "And we really patrol really close to the vessels' We're watching for people that are extremely intoxicated. It's very common to drink alcohol out here."

He and a second game warden, Josh Espinoza, watch for telltale signs of tipsy drivers. It could be as subtle as a big wake or as blunt as dangerous boating such as speed near other boats. 

While there haven't been many serious accidents in recent years, Lewisville Lake had a hard-earned reputation as a dangerous lake in the late '90s. News reports counted 37 accidents with 24 injuries between 1995 and 2000. Norris is hoping their efforts are paying off.

That doesn't mean boaters aren't tempting fate.

Take the case of the man whose blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit. Initially pulled over for making a wake in a no-wake zone, the man was not alone on the boat. His wife was with him, and so was their 15-month old child. And the child was not wearing a life vest.

In our second part, a look at the laws regarding BWI and a sobering legal loophole for those caught.

Read Part 2 right here