What should have passed as a tragic episode in Texas history has become clouded by speculation and intrigue, thanks in large part to the recalcitrance of a federal bureaucracy.
When two Border Patrol agents, Travis Attaway and Jeremy Wilson, died Sept. 19 in a boating accident on the Rio Grande, they seemed destined to take their places beside other law officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting the public.
But officials’ resistance to provide information to the public has left too many questions unanswered. Among these questions are:
n What tasks were the agents performing when the accident occurred?
n What caused their 19-foot Baymaster boat, known for its stability, to overturn on the river?
n Were the agents wearing life jackets?
n Did they have the proper equipment available to them?
n What has the accident’s lone survivor, Javier Sandoval, told investigators about the accident?
The lack of official cooperation has extended beyond the failure of spokesmen to answer pertinent questions about the accident. News reporters were told immediately following the accident that Attaway and Wilson’s colleagues at the Border Patrol, including Sandoval, were forbidden to speak with the media. Additionally, at least one reporter was denied entrance to the memorial service held for the two men.
This intransigence appears to be intensified by the Border Patrol’s status as part of the Department of Homeland Security, a federal agency known for its secrecy, even when it is not warranted.
Indeed, there has been no evidence provided to indicate that Attaway, Wilson and Sandoval were engaged in activities related to homeland security, as opposed to normal Border Patrol duties.
When government officials fail to keep the public informed, via the media, about investigations into incidents like the Sept. 19 boating accident, it leaves a void that people quite naturally attempt to fill with their own ideas about what occurred.
But idle speculation is no substitute for documented information or official verification. Taxpayers deserve to know what happened that Sunday afternoon on the Rio Grande — and they deserve to know it in a timely fashion.