Written By: Rachael Riley, Killeen Daily Herald
Dec. 29, 2015
NOLANVILLE — City officials are starting a storm water safety initiative, beginning with placing fences and signs in the area where an 11-year-old boy became trapped in June.
On Monday night, Nolanville City Council members approved the safety initiative and the placing of warning signs at the site of a detention pond near Avenue H and 10th Street.
The site is where Matthew Natal slipped and was trapped underwater for about 15 minutes earlier this summer, leading to his death.
“His parents recently had a call to action on his behalf in order to bring awareness to the community on the danger of storm water,” City Manager Kara Escajeda said, proposing signs and a fence. “It’s not the only area in Nolanville that’s a floodway, but this is part of an awareness campaign.”
Councilman Butch Reis questioned whether officials spoke with the city’s attorney before acting.
“If we do put up a fence, it shows we’re not admitting to any wrongdoing or anything?” Reis said.
Escajeda said there are no requirements to fence in the area, but the city’s decision to do so is for awareness.
Future plans for the initiative are to coordinate with area schools for storm safety awareness, she said.
On what would have been Matthew’s 12th birthday, Dec. 10, the Natal family and their attorney, Josh Davis, met with city representatives seeking a plan of action to prevent future accidents.
“The Natal family is pleased to hear the city is taking steps to remedy this public safety concern,” Davis said in a statement on behalf of the family on Tuesday. “Hopefully in the future, Nolanville families will not have to suffer as the Natals have suffered.”
In a news release and news conference at the Bell County Courthouse earlier this month, Davis said the family held off on filing a suit against the city so funds could be used to fix the pond and save lives.
A $1 million suit was filed against developers of the pond in November.
“With the kinds of floods that we are experiencing in Central Texas, we need to take a hard look at the kinds of practices that developers have been utilizing in the past decade,” Davis previously said.
In a statement after city representatives met with the family on Dec. 10, officials said the city did not design or build the detention pond, but maintained it after it was dedicated to the city.
“The city engineer has explained that the detention pond meets the standards and criteria for such facilities, that it has been properly maintained, and performs the purposes for which it was designed,” officials said. “The city is not aware of any defects in the detention pond’s design or maintenance that need to be corrected, but it is willing to explore measures to diminish the reoccurrence of tragedies similar to Matthew’s.”
According to a police accident report, it was estimated the pond held more than 1.2 million gallons of water with the depth of water in the culverts at 5 feet and water pressure estimated at 75 pounds per square inch during the time of the accident.
“Matthew Natal approached from what he thought was a safe vantage point and slipped on the rocks, causing his feet to go directly in front of the third culvert,” the accident report states.
All engineering personnel police spoke with recommended fencing in the area and using large rocks as filtering barrier, the report states.
On Monday, Escajeda said placing any barriers on the culvert would require action of the individual who designed the pond.
“Putting the fence around the top doesn’t alter the design of the pond,” she said.
During the Dec. 10 news conference Matthew’s mother, Rebecca Natal, said the family wanted to see action regarding the “death trap” that the family saw months after her son’s accident.
“I’m going to make sure that we protect other people’s families from this pain — it’s unbearable,” she previously said.