DENTON (CBSDFW.COM) – A homeless man drowned in Denton after fast-moving water, from a flash flood, swept him away.
Denton firefighters say several men, who were reportedly living in tents, in a drainage flume behind a busy shopping center near Interstate-35 and University Boulevard, were swept away when a flash flood hit Sunday afternoon.
Denton’s assistant Fire Chief Ken Hedges says a wall of water rushed in on them. “There were three males that were camping out in a what I would call a trans-flume going into a retention pond. They had tents and various other campsite props set up.”
Two of the men were rescued and had no apparent injuries, but the third was swept into a retention pond and did not resurface. Denton firefighters and the dive team from Lewisville spent hours looking and found his body after midnight.
In addition to searching in the dark, firefighters say the recovery was even more difficult because the water was full of snakes. One of the reptiles even lunged at a firefighter’s face, but he was able to swat it away.
Firefighters say the surviving men told them they’d endured heavy rain before — but not flooding like that. The wall of water that rushed through that drainage area was caused by runoff from weekend storms.
The Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office has identified the man, but isn’t releasing his name until the next of kin is notified. Officials at the office describe the man as being “middle aged” and say it could be Tuesday before his exact cause of death is determined.
Advocates for homeless issues say the man’s death speaks to a larger problem. Those who work with the homeless in Denton say they know there was a reason the man was on the streets and worry what happened this weekend is a sign of a growing problem.
Courtney Cross works with a county leadership team on homelessness and says funding for homeless programs is down, along with affordable housing in Denton. The combination means there are more people who are one crisis away from living on the streets.
“It’s a systematic issue and that’s what’s most heartbreaking about it. To me it’s more than just someone we count on our survey,” she said. “It’s more than just someone getting a hot lunch at our soup kitchen. It’s someone who the system has failed them in one way or another and that’s what we’re really trying to address is system wide change.”
The most recent survey shows there are more than 220 people who are homeless in Denton County. Cross says they don’t know if the man who died is someone who was on that list.