The photo Matthew Meinert took before his father-son fishing trip is all sunshine and smiles. But authorities are now wondering what could have happened to separate Meinert from his young son.
As KHOU News reports, on Monday at about 5 p.m., Meinert took his two-year-old son, Oliver, fishing near Texas’s Lake Grapevine. The 38-year-old dad was an experienced fisherman and familiar with the lake.
But only an hour into the fishing trip, Meinert’s boat was found empty and abandoned in a creek not far from where they had launched it.
According to the Star-Telegram, boaters found Meinert’s fishing boat beached in an “unusual location” on Denton Creek at about 6 p.m. on Monday. There was no sign of the father or his toddler son. The only items inside the boat were fishing gear, a cellphone and shoes.
Immediately, authorities began searching for Meinert and Oliver. At 2 a.m., the search was suspended, though it resumed just six hours later.
At 8:45 the next morning, rescuers got their first break. Two searchers walking in the area where the boat was found heard a crying noise. They quickly found Oliver, who was wandering alone in the brush, wearing only shorts and a t-shirt. Though the temperature had dropped overnight, Oliver had only a few scratches and cuts from his night alone in the woods.
Oliver reportedly walked right up to the rescuers and asked for a juice box. However, the boy was unable to provide any clues about what happened to his father. Texas Game Warden Cliff Swofford told the Star-Telegram:
“[Oliver] was dry, scratched-up, scared and cold but he’s fine and we got him reunited with his mother.”
Meanwhile, the search continues for Meinert. Authorities still don’t know what could have happened in that fateful hour. They speculate that Meinert might have fallen out of the boat, which then continued under its own power until it beached itself on the shore.
With no sign of the missing dad despite an extensive search of the area, some believe the rescue effort has turned into a recovery mission. Brandon Barth of the Flower Mound Fire Department told the Star-Telegram:
“At this point I think we would have run across him if he was just wandering around in the woods somewhere. I don’t ever want to say never because stranger things have happened, but we’ve saturated the area.”
However, not everyone has given up hope. Game Warden Captain Tony Norton told KHOU News that finding Oliver, “revitalized,” both the family and rescue workers:
“There’s so many unknowns. We have to turn over every stone to try to find him. And locate him. Luckily we found the child this morning and that was great. Hopefully we can find the father alive as well.”
Police Lt. Tracy Shields told KHOU News that rescuers are determined to keep looking until they know what happened to the missing father:
“We’re going to continue this as a search and rescue until something else happens. We’re hopeful. We’re not giving up hope and the family is not giving up hope.”