Sunday Beach rescuer: ‘I was getting to the point I couldn’t stay above water’

"The current there is pretty strong, so you always got to watch out," said Chipper Dowell of Port Lavaca.
Sunday Beach Rescue
Credit: Chipper Dowell

PORT O’ CONNOR, Texas – A family of Port Lavaca is sending a message to beachgoers — stay aware.

The Dowell family decided to head to Sunday Beach in Port O’ Connor on Monday, May 31 with two other families.

Just like any day spent at the beach, Chipper Dowell said the long-time family friends were excited to spend the day and search for sand dollars.

“We decided to go to the beach, it was me [Chipper] my wife, Carolina, Lindsey Z. and his two sons, on an airboat,”‘ he said. “And we had another group with us in a separate boat, Stephen Kosler and his wife Sheryl and their four kids in his boat.”

At first, the families, except Dowell went ahead and made their way to the Gulf Beach.

“About 15 or 20 minutes later, I went to the Gulf Beach, pulled around in the airboat, pulled up on the bank and spun it around,” Dowell shared.

Dowell noticed how far in everyone was in the surf, including his daughter Emma Dowell.

“We know the dangers, we’ve had discussions [with his daughter] about the surf,” said Dowell.

The kids were in the surf jumping waves, next to Sunday pass.

Dowell then got out of his airboat, started wading out and reached the group of kids.

“One of the kids told me, ‘we can’t find Emma’ … at that point I turned around and told them [the kids] to get out of the water,” he said.

Meanwhile out in the surf, the long-time family friend Stephen Kosler of Flatonia and Lindsey Zwerschke of Port Lavaca were out with the kids.

Kosler said Emma, Dowell’s daughter was swept out.

“Lindsey and Stephen Kosler are the ones that went out in the water and got to her [Emma],” Dowell said.

Kosler confirmed he and Zwerschke rushed out to reach Emma. The current was strong and huge waves were crashing all around the three of them.

“We realized right away we were in trouble” shared Kosler. “The way how harsh the waves were coming in … it’s something I have never been in and I have been swimming in the Gulf Coast my whole life,” he said.

Kosler said his daughter who is also named Emma was the one who alerted the rest of the family what was going on.

That’s when Dowell started wading out with his airboat. After searching for his daughter and two friends, he finally spotted them.

He made his way towards the three.

“I got off the controls and I went down to try to grab one of the guys to get him in the boat, it was just real heavy … the boat turned a little bit, went up on a wave and just sunk … to where it was in that picture, that’s where it set,” said Dowell. “At one point I was able to get him [Kosler] into the boat, which the sinking of the boat was horrible, but I would not have been able to get them in the boat had the boat not sunk.”

Dowell said the airboat was the only tool that could have gotten to his daughter, Kosler and Zwerschke.

“I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t swim and I thought this was it,” said Kosler. “Then I heard an airboat motor, it just kind of woke me up and I got a little shot of adrenaline and over the waves I could see the boat.”

Kosler was referring to seeing Dowell’s airboat making its way towards them.

“I was getting to the point I couldn’t stay above water and was doing everything I could to hold up Emma,” Kosler added.

Thankfully, Dowell said he was able to get all three in the boat.

He also shared there were two other men nearby that were fishing about 400 yards down from the incident.

“James Davis and Christopher Finch, without them I don’t know what I would have done,” said Dowell.

Dowell shared the two men had a kayak and they made their way to help the group.

“They grabbed the kayak … and started out to where we were at … and that [kayak] was used to get everyone from the airboat back to shore,” said Dowell.

Dowell said everything happened so fast.

His daughter Emma was in the hospital for a 12-hour observation, but is out now and doing well.

Kosler said he was in the hospital and has been released. He is recovering at home.

He confirmed in a Facebook post that his blood pressure and heart rate are back to normal following the incident.

25 News Now has not confirmed or spoken to family members in relation to the health status of the third friend Zwerschke mentioned in this story.

“I am completely overwhelmed with the amount of support, love and care that we have been shown,” Dowell said.

For more specific details about what happened that day, Kosler gave permission to link back to his Facebook post. Click here.

“The current there is pretty strong, so you always got to watch out,” said Dowell.

You can email 25 News Nows Anchor Ozzy Mora at omora@victoriatelevision.com for updates.

Click here for suggested tips by the Red Cross on how to reduce the risks in the ocean or open water.