Log in

Top Stories        News         Sports

Polk County News

Sides grateful to survive boating accident

1 Comment
Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

                               JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Jim Sides poses with the throw cushion and life vest that saved his life when his boat capsized on Feb. 3 while he was fishing on Lake Livingston.

By Jason Chlapek

Jim Sides loves to go fishing.

On Feb. 3, Sides went fishing just as he did numerous times during his 78 years of life. But on this day, Sides’ fishing trip in Lake Livingston could’ve been his last.

The boat that Sides was fishing in three weeks ago sank, which forced him to grab the throw cushion and the life vest that were in it. More than three hours later, someone came to Sides’ rescue.

“I was in a horrible situation,” Sides said. “After having someone help me put the boat in the water, I went over to fish. I fished for about an hour or an hour-and-a-half then I noticed there was some water by my foot. I didn’t think much of it, but then I noticed there was more water. Then I started to wonder what was going on. I looked back and I had about a pencil stream of water coming into the boat from right underneath the motor.”

As it turns out, a bolt had been taken out of the boat and the hole wasn’t plugged. Sides purchased the boat a month earlier.

“I just bought this boat and I couldn’t get the motor to run,” he said. “I finally got the motor to running (on Feb. 3). The previous owner guaranteed me that there were no leaks and I took him at his word. I fished all my life and I had water get in the boat. I start the boat, pull the plug out, water runs out and I take off.”

But something different happened when Sides followed the start-boat protocol.

“I started the boat up and I took off, but all of the water came to the back of the boat,” he said. “Then the boat came down. I attempted to put on a life preserver, but I couldn’t get it to fasten around me. I was able to get my left arm through it and get it around my neck. I grabbed my throw cushion and got out of the boat as it was going down. I did not want to go down with the boat. Whenever I would hang on to the sides of the boat, it would sink. I worked my way to the front of the boat, but there were no other boats in the lake.”

Being 300 yards from either the Trinity County or Polk County shores of the lake, Sides was in the water for more than three hours. That’s when his Air Force training kicked in.

“I trained in the Arctic Circle when I was in the Air Force and I learned there not to do too much so I wouldn’t cramp,” Sides said. “I started hollering and waving my throw cushion.”

But there were no boats or people around. Sides started to prepare for the worst.

“I was getting blown up the lake because of the wind current,” he said. “I looked at my watch and noticed that I was about to get dark. I thought I was going to die. I asked the Lord not to take me, but then I saw a boat coming.”

Sides then picked up his throw cushion and waved it as the boat approached. As it turns out, the boat was coming for him.

“The man in the boat, Derek Rosenthal, had been contacted by another man, Bill Sory, who heard me screaming when he took his dog outside to use the bathroom,” Sides said. “Bill called everybody he knew who had a boat.”

Once the boat arrived, the obstacle was getting Sides in the boat. As exhaustion took over, the Air Force Veteran was unable to get into the boat by himself.

“Rosenthal threw a rope around me and pulled me around his pontoon boat. The boat had a ladder and I was able to get my knees on the ladder and Rosenthal pulled me up until I could reach the handrails then he pulled me belly-first onto his boat. I couldn’t stand up because my legs gave out and I was exhausted. Rosenthal then tied a rope onto my boat and took it back around his boat.”

Sides said if it had been another 30 minutes, he would’ve been dead. He’s very grateful for Rosenthal and Sory.

“If Bill Sory hadn’t taken his dog out to use the bathroom, I wouldn’t be here because there was no way I could’ve stayed alive,” Sides said. “I almost froze to death. I don’t know how it didn’t kill me. That water was cold. I had hypothermia. I wasn’t going to drown, but hypothermia would’ve killed me.”

Once Rosenthal and Sides reached the shore, there were two more people waiting for Sides with blankets. Despite pleas from the people who saved him, Sides refused to go to the hospital.

“I was shaking horribly and they begged me to go to the hospital,” he said. “But I wanted to go home. My car was parked by the boat ramp and Bill helped me get in his truck. The seat had a warmer and it felt so good. I talked him into taking me to my car and he followed me home and helped me get in the house.”

Once Sides returned home, he thought he was going to “scare the devil” out of his wife. While he didn’t say whether or not he actually did scare her, Sides was helped into the shower.

“When Bill helped me get in the house, I went straight to the shower and my wife turned the hot water on,” he said. “I sat there for a half-hour letting the hot water run on me. I found out later that there were two helicopters looking for me. You can’t imagine what it’s like being in that water. I knew I wasn’t going to drown and I’m a good swimmer, but hypothermia was kicking my butt. I was completely exhausted and I couldn’t get warm. I thank the Lord that he let me survive one more time. I’ve had a lot of missed calls in my life.”

Sides also said it’s going to be a while until he goes back on the lake.

“I’m not going back in the water until it gets warmer,” he said. “When I do go, I’ll make sure I have my life preserver on.”

He’ll be ready to go fishing then.

  • Hits: 1604

Winter weather slams through Polk County

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

                               PHOTOS BY JASON CHLAPEK AND PAM NOBLES I PCE Winter weather made driving conditions treacherous for a Toyota pickup truck and an 18-wheeler earlier this week.

By Jason Chlapek

Like the majority of the state of Texas, Polk County was not spared by Mother Nature this week.

A winter storm came through most of the state Sunday night and Polk County was one of the storm’s destinations. The storm left snow on the ground, which prompted schools and some businesses to close its doors because of adverse travel conditions.

Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy called a declaration of disaster from Sunday to Wednesday. The northern portion of the county received 4-6 inches of snow, while Livingston received 3-4 and the southern portion received 1-2.

Temperatures did not go above freezing (37 degrees) and are not projected to until Friday when the high is supposed to be 43. Temperatures dropped to as low as 4 Tuesday morning.

Truck 1

As of press time, the Polk County Office of Emergency Management reported that approximately 2,600 homes were without water and 292 were without electricity. A second cold front was projected to sweep through the county Wednesday afternoon, which would make driving conditions treacherous again.

All six county school districts – Big Sandy, Corrigan-Camden, Goodrich, Leggett, Livingston and Onalaska – either closed or performed virtual learning Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. C-CISD is closed for the remainder of the week, Goodrich is closed today and the other districts didn’t make a decision about today or Friday as of press time.

The Polk County Office of Emergency Management can be reached at 936-327-6826, or visit the website at http://www.PolkCountyOEM.com/ . Other agencies that can be reached during winter storm emergencies are the Polk County Sheriff’s Office (936-327-6810), Department of Public Safety (936-327-6806), Livingston Police Department (936-327-3117), Onalaska Police Department (936-646-5676), Corrigan Police Department (936-398-2551) and the Alabama-Coushatta Police Department (936-563-1200).

  • Hits: 2883

PCSO seeks shooting suspect

Write a comment
Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

RamirezRalph Ramirez

From the Polk County Sheriff’s Office

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is looking for a suspect involved in a shooting early last week.

Polk County Sheriff Bryon Lyons said his office received a 911 call on Feb. 15, at approximately 12:03 p.m. of a gunshot victim at a residence on Plum Pudding Rd. off FM 2798 in the Votaw area of Polk County. Deputies along with Americare EMS and South End First Responders arrived at the location and found Gregory Basham, 37, with a single gunshot wound to the abdomen area who was later transported to an out-of-county Hospital.

Polk County Detectives arrived at the location and identified the shooter as Ralph Ramirez, 44, of Liberty County. An altercation was reported to have occurred between Basham and Ramirez at which time Ramirez retrieved a 22 rifle from inside the residence and shot Basham.

The firearm was recovered at the scene. Ramirez left the location prior to law enforcement’s arrival.

Sheriff’s Office Detectives have obtained an arrest warrant for Ramirez for the offense of Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon issued by JP 4 Jamie Richardson.

If you know the whereabouts of Ralph Ramirez, Sheriff Lyons asks that you contact the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at 936-327-6810 or Crime Stoppers at 936-327-STOP (7867).

  • Hits: 1691

Naskila Reopening

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

20210211 160234COURTESY PHOTO

Gaming enthusiasts have waited a few long months for the luckiest spot in Texas to resume operations. The most fervent of which were in the parking lot Thursday morning at 9 a.m. when Naskila Gaming again opened its doors to welcome guests.

Naskila closed over the last half of December and all of January to help mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

"We have a great crowd here today and I think everyone is excited to get back to Naskila, because we've missed them as much as they've missed us," marketing operations manager Laura Shelby said. "We've been closed since Dec. 10 and I think a lot of that is just excitement to be back and getting out of the house and it is a place they enjoy coming."

The number of games at Naskila have not increased over the 790 that were in place before the closure. However, they are now over a larger area, allowing for more space and larger walkways throughout the gaming floor. A room once used as a banquet area now holds over 100 machines.

For now, the facility is non-smoking where games are played. There is an area that before served as the front entrance that has been set aside for smoking.

Masks are required and social distancing is encouraged. Dividers have been placed between each game that gives a bit more privacy and each player their own space.

"A lot of other gaming places around the country are using them and it allows us to have every machine on," Shelby said of the dividers. "People aren't having to pick like, 'Oh, my favorite machine is turned off today,' or that sort of thing. It is also for people feel more safe that they can sit and gamble and not have to worry about it."

Employees are tested each week for Covid-19. In addition, everyone who enters Naskila is scanned by a new tool that the group hopes will eliminate any spread of the virus while out for entertainment.

"It is an infrared temperature taker. When you step into the right place well, it scans you and gives the security guard your temperature. It actually shows up on the screen."

Taking every precaution since the virus became an issue, Naskila established the Clean Team, a group of neon-shirted workers with the responsibility of keeping germs to a minimum. There are approximately 75 on the crew that rotate in three different shifts. Signs are posted on each of the electronic Bingo units to let gamers know they can press a button for a Clean Team member to disinfect wherever a customer is playing.

"We also installed 25 antibacterial wipes (stands) that our guests can just take at will and wipe down the machine if they choose to."

With freezing weather expected, Shelby said she did not anticipate the casino closing. It has remained open through hurricanes and floods and is able to operate on generators if the power becomes an issue. There is an EMT staff and a clinic on the site, making it one of the safer places at any time.

"It is nice to be back and have a purpose," she said of the return. "Everybody was ready to come back. Being off for a little bit is nice, but everybody gets bored. This week, we went through some training and it was just nice to see everybody. We missed each other just as much as we missed seeing the guests."

  • Hits: 5714

Winter Storm Warning in Polk County

Write a comment
Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Polk County OEM PSA COVID 19 Vaccine Temporary WaitlistPolk County OEM

From the Polk County Office of Emergency Management

The National Weather Service in Houston/Galveston (NWS) issued a Winter Storm Warning, which is in effect from 9 p.m. Saturday through 6 p.m. Monday for Polk County.

Periods of freezing rain or drizzle are expected, especially tonight and Sunday, creating icy conditions. A period of moderate snow, sleet and freezing rain is expected Sunday night and Monday followed by bitterly cold conditions Monday night and Tuesday.

Snow, ice and cold will likely pose a threat to life and property with hazardous road conditions, burst pipes and water mains, damage to infrastructure, and power outages. Temperatures are expected to drop to 26 degrees Sunday morning, 19 degrees Monday morning, and 8 degrees Tuesday morning.

NWS is forecasting 1-2 inches of snowfall for most of Polk County, with .10 to .25 inches of ice accumulation through Tuesday morning. A decision on closing County offices will be made late Monday afternoon.

Check your school district's websites and social media pages for school closure and virtual learning updates. Now is the time to insulate pipes, and make plans to shelter in place Sunday night through Tuesday if possible.

Remember to protect, pets, plants, and pipes. There is a risk of hypothermia for anyone outside who is not dressed properly.

Prepare your home to keep out the cold with insulation, caulking and weather stripping. Insulate pipes to keep them from freezing. Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups.

Gather supplies in case you need to stay home for several days without power. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication.

Remember the needs of your pets. Have extra batteries for radios and flashlights and keep electronic devices charged.

Create an emergency supply kit that includes a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water and non-perishable food and snacks. Avoid travel if you can. To check highway conditions, log onto www.DriveTexas.org.

TXDOT began pre-treating highways yesterday and will continue to monitor and treat TXDOT roads as needed throughout the winter weather event.

Another winter storm is possible on Wednesday although it could bring more rain for southern areas, and an ice threat, especially in northern areas of Southeast Texas. There is uncertainty still with that storm.

  • Hits: 1621