Texas Man Charged After He Fatally Ran Over a 4-Year-Old Girl Swimming Behind His Houseboat
A Texas houseboating incident last week has resulted in the death of a little girl, the severing of her father's legs and the arrest of the boat's owner
A Texas houseboating incident last week has resulted in the death of a little girl, the severing of her father’s legs and the arrest of the boat’s owner.
Kaitlyn Oliver, 4, was swimming in waist-deep water on Friday in Lake Belton in Temple, Texas, when she was run over by a houseboat, authorities tell PEOPLE. Jason Bernal, the boat’s owner who was driving it at the time, has since been charged with criminally negligent homicide in connection with her death, according to officials.
Kaitlyn drowned after being engulfed by the propellers, police said. Her body was covered in lacerations from the blades.
What led up to the incident remains unclear, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by PEOPLE: Bernal told Temple police that he couldn’t see behind him as he backed up because the three-story houseboat was too tall. But before reversing, he said, he yelled “clear” — and did not hear any objections.
However, the affidavit states that multiple witnesses claim people were shouting for Bernal to stop when they realized he was reversing his boat.
The affidavit further states that a witness told police the boat was in full throttle when it was backing up and that Bernal had been warned not to park in the area because of the children swimming there.
Kaitlyn’s father jumped into the water to save her, but his legs were severely injured by the houseboat’s propellers and doctors later had to amputate them, local TV station KWKT reports.
He reportedly remains in critical condition at a local hospital.
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A GoFundMe page started by the Oliver family, to help with funeral and medical costs, describes Kaitlyn as “a sweet, vivacious, beautiful four-year old girl.” A local funeral home has offered to cover the expenses of her funeral, according to KWKT.
“This innocent child loved her dog, Kion, singing along to Frozen, and cuddling with her family,” her family wrote on the GoFundMe. “Kaitlyn was deeply loved by her parents … as well as her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.”
Bernal is out on bond; efforts to reach him Wednesday for comment were unsuccessful. It is unclear if he has entered a plea or has an attorney who could comment on his behalf.