Breaking News
More () »

City to add extra patrols and additional safety plans in wake of Lady Bird Lake drownings

Starting this weekend, Rainey Street and the Ann and Roy Butler trail will have APD officers and more park rangers in the area.

AUSTIN, Texas — The City of Austin is increasing patrols in the area of Rainey Street and the Ann and Butler Hike and Bike Trail after the drowning deaths of Jason John and Jonathan Honey.

Austin Police will be out in the popular entertainment district, while more park rangers are set to be stationed along the trail. 

In February, John was pulled from Lady Bird Lake. 

Roughly a month later, in early April, Honey was also pulled from the lake. 

According to police, both cases remain under investigation, but authorities have said there is no evidence of foul play.

“As a city, we recognize we need to do more to keep people safe in this area. We are moving quickly to do so and are reaching out to businesses on Rainey Street and other state agencies to partner with us in this crucially important effort. We also ask visitors to Rainey Street to drink responsibly and stay safe by staying together," Interim Manager Jesús Garza said in a press release Friday.

Council member Zo Qadri, who has advocated for improving safety measures after John's death, said he will be introducing a resolution during next Thursday's meeting that would add HALO cameras in the area.

It will also recommend that the city team up with the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission, stakeholders, and Rainey Street bar owners to work on strategies to build awareness and to limit the sale of alcohol. 

On April 21, the council stated that they are exploring adding EMS personnel to the trailhead. An update regarding this will be provided on May 8.

"No one should ever have any level of fear when they're going out for the night with friends," said Qadri. 

Caitlyn Jackson is the general manager for the Half Step bar on Rainey Street. She told KVUE she is aware of how 'rowdy' it can get in the area, and welcomes the additional safety coming in. 

"The biggest thing for us is just keeping our head on a swivel constantly and making sure that we're looking out for everybody who enters our establishments," said Jackson.

In regards to teaming up with the city to curb over-serving customers, Jackson said she can only speak for her establishment, but it boils down to training. 

"Teaching and training people how to like know that just because we haven't been overserved in your establishment doesn't mean that they're not coming in from three other bars down the street or that they may be on some other sort of substance," said Jackson. 

According to a Friday press release from the city, there have been 5 drownings near the Rainey Street Trailhead area since 2014. Three, however, that occurred between 2014 and 2018, were ruled accidental, with the release saying: "None of these autopsies revealed any trauma consistent with an assault. Based on those autopsy results and the totality of APD's (Austin Police Department) investigation, APD determined there was no indication of foul play."

The city also added the Rainey Street Trailhead Project, which is in partnership with The Trail Conservancy, and has been in the works since 2019 is expected to break ground this summer. 

The goal is for a more permanent solution for lighting and cameras in the area. 

In March, the city, along with the Parks and Recreation Department, added solar-powered lights and fencing ahead of South By Southwest (SXSW), which has remained in place. 

Qadri said the extra patrols and park rangers will remain on duty until further notice. 

"We should do everything we can as a city to take those deaths seriously and to be proactive, and to come up with solutions, and to make sure that the deaths like those don't happen again," said Qadri.

Kelsey Sanchez on social media: Facebook | Twitter

KVUE on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Before You Leave, Check This Out