Dad still missing after toddler found safe during Denton Creek search

Search for father continues

TROPHY CLUB, Texas -- Searchers on foot and in boats continue to search for a missing boater with the help of search dogs on the ground and drones in the air.

The search at Denton Creek continues after 38-year-old Meinert and his 2-year-old son, Oliver, vanished while on a fishing trip Monday. Searchers now hold out for the same miracle they received when Oliver was discovered walking through heavy brush early Tuesday morning.

Later that afternoon, the family of Matthew Meinert released a photograph, the last photograph he sent his wife before he and his son began their fishing trip. In the selfie, the two are smiling, clearly excited about their planned evening expedition as father and son.

The search for them began late Monday night when they didn’t return. Then, early Tuesday morning, an officer on foot encountered the 2-year-old boy walking through brush alone. Police say Oliver was wearing only a T-shirt and shorts and he had several scratches and cuts from his night alone in the woods. But overall, the boy was in good condition. His first request was to ask an officer for juice.

“No one expected to find a 2-year-old this morning,” said Lt. Tracey Shields, with the Trophy Club Police Department. “So we’re going to continue this as a search and rescue until something else happens. We’re hopeful. We’re not giving up hope and the family is not giving up hope.”

Between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Monday, boaters found Meinert's flat-bottom aluminum fishing boat abandoned and beached up the creek from the boat launch. It was empty except for fishing gear, shoes and a cellphone.

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While investigators still haven’t pieced the entire puzzle together, the prevailing theory is that Matthew Meinert might have fallen out into the water with the boat continuing under its own power until it hit shore and rammed into the tree.

After the boat's discovery, authorities began their search for the father and son using boats and sonar equipment. 

The Department of Public Safety launched a helicopter, and police from Trophy Club, Roanoke, Flower Mound and Lewisville assisted until about 2 a.m. The agencies returned when the sun came up Tuesday morning, and that's when they found the 2-year-old boy, who approached them with open arms.

The boy was taken to Cook Children's, where he was reunited with his mother.

Shields says temperatures dropped overnight and it got chilly, so "the fact that he's in such great shape is a miracle."

Family members told police the father knew the lake and was an avid fisherman, who had been there many times.

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Early Tuesday afternoon, game wardens drove his boat under its own power to the boat ramp on the Trophy Club side of Grapevine Lake where Meinert’s pickup truck was still parked.  They took the boat as evidence hoping it might provide more clues to what happened. Life jackets were found in the boat.

“There’s so many unknowns,” same Texas Game Warden Capt. Tony Norton. “We have to turn over every stone to try to find him. And locate him. Luckily we found the child this morning and that was great. Hopefully we can find the father alive as well. We’re hopeful for that. We’re going to continue to look until we do find him.”

It appears neither the father nor the son were wearing a life jacket during the fishing trip, Shields said. 

Still, police are hopeful and so is the family, Shields said.

"We’re hoping to find the father alive as well. We’re hopeful for that. We’ll continue to search until we find him," said Capt. Tony Norton, with the Game Warden's Office.

"They are revitalized," he said. "That was a happy moment for everyone here to find the child, now if we can just find the father, and have an all over happy ending, that would be great."

Teams continued their search until dark Tuesday and were expected resume again at about 9 a.m. Wednesday. 

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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