Aggie from Conroe missing after weekend boating accident

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by By Michelle Homer / KHOU.com

kvue.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:38 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 19 at 6:46 PM

CORSICANA, Texas -- A Texas A&M student from Conroe remained missing Tuesday after a boating accident on a Texas lake.

Video
Raw interviews with survivors
December 15, 2008

The accident happened Friday night at the Richland Chambers Reservoir near Corsicana.

Nine students were celebrating the end of the semester at a friend's lake house. They had taken a boat across the lake to a restaurant and were returning when the boat apparently hit a submerged tree stump. It capsized near the Highway 287 bridge.

"As soon as it hit the stump, the boat... flipped over and tossed all of us outside," Kirbi Gayle said. "A few of us were underneath the boat and had to swim out from under it."

The students were OK after the accident, but they were unable to get the boat to turn back over.

"We all sat on the underside of the boat and floated, paddled, and screamed for help -- but no help came," said a Facebook posting by one of the survivors. "It was about 40 degrees outside and the coldness was unbearable."

That's when Chase Bergfeld jumped into the water and tried to push the boat himself.

Survivors said Bergfeld provided them with hope and encouragement during the ordeal.

"Chase was definitely one of the motivators.I don't know if it was just because he was the oldest and he cared about all of us.I mean he wouldn't give up," said Leeann Papst. "He just kept saying 'we're gonna get there, we're gonna get there.All of ya'll are going to be safe' because people were yelling 'we're all going to die.'He was just encouraging us that we weren't and we were going to make it and were going to be fine."

"Chase was a brave, brave guy and had an awesome heart, and all he cared about was everyone else," Gayle said.

Sometime around 3 a.m., Bergfeld became delirious and was in obvious distress, his friends said.

Two of his friends then left the boat to swim to shore. But it was too late. At some point, Bergfeld slid off the boat and disappeared into the water.

"We were so cold," Papst said. "None of us even had the strength to turn around and try and get him up there and he didn't have the strength."

The others huddled together and prayed until the current changed and the boat eventually drifted back to shore.

The stunned students walked to a house and called police.

Five of them were taken to a hospital and treated for mild hypothermia. One student underwent surgery because he had a gash in his back.

Three days after the accident, Bergfeld was still missing.

Texas Parks and Wildlife is heading up the search, but they've been hampered by freezing rain.

The game wardens leading the recovery effort say the search will continue every day until Bergfeld is found.

Friends set up a prayer group for Bergfeld on Facebook. By Monday night, the page already had more than 2,500 members.

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