Boat Suspected in Fatal Hit-and-Run Exhumed from Grave

View Comments ()
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    Boat's owner arrested in connection with fatal hit-and-run.

    Authorities found a speedboat buried on a rural Texas property Wednesday and charged its owner with manslaughter, eight years after a high school football player out fishing with his best friends was killed in a hit-and-run boating accident.

    Texas Parks and Wildlife officials used a backhoe to dig up the buried speedboat near Bertram, about 44 miles northwest of Austin, agency spokesman Mike Cox said.

    The owner of the boat and the property, Travis Marburger, 36, faces a manslaughter charge and remains in custody in the Burnet County Jail on a $100,000 bond. No attorney information was available for Marburger. The Associated Press called his home number several times Wednesday, but the line was busy.

    "It's an answered prayer," said Jim Daniels, 26, who was found floating the next morning in Lake Buchanan, unconscious but alive.

    Another survivor, Kelly Corbin, was found unconscious in the partially submerged boat.

    The May 2002 boat crash killed Lampasas High School football player Justin Roberts, 18, whose body was found floating in the lake. All three teenagers were wearing life jackets. Authorities found a haul of fish and Dr. Pepper in a cooler.

    Authorities say the fishing boat the teens were riding in was hit by a speedboat around midnight. The driver of the speedboat never called authorities, nor rescued the high school students.

    "I don't think the accident defines who you are," said Daniels, himself now a game warden in Knox and King counties. "It's the choices you make next. It's what the individual did next that really defines who you are."

    The late-night fishing trip was one the friends had taken on several previous occasions and was "something we could do with our eyes closed," Daniels said. The lights along a dam on Lake Buchanan attract bait fish and stripers, but not much was biting that night, he said.

    Roberts called his parents around 11:30 p.m. to say the trio would be heading home soon. They were following the lights along the dam back to the dock when a speedboat struck their craft head-on.

    Daniels said that despite hypnosis, he does not have a clear recollection of the accident. He said he was unconscious in the water for about nine hours before help arrived.

    "You can imagine how many times I have exhausted my thoughts, trying to remember," Daniels said.

    He has better recollections of his friend, Roberts.

    Daniels said Roberts was a football team captain, student council member and "the epitome of what you hope your kids grow up to be." He said Roberts wanted to be a game warden, too, and was bound for Texas A&M University.

    Cox said the parks department received a tip to their Operation Game Thief hotline in November that led them to Marburger's 10-acre spread. The tip was specific enough that they knew where to dig for the boat -- near a metal storage building and along a barbed-wire fence.

    The property is nowhere near water. And although much of the evidence ended up along the bottom of the lake, there were blue-painted pieces of the speedboat found at the crime scene that match the color of the boat found on Marburger's property, Cox said.

    "Those of us connected to law enforcement for a long time, we've all seen bodies and skeletons and guns and cars. But nobody ever remembers a boat being excavated," Cox said.

    Manslaughter is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Marburger has a 1997 conviction for evading arrest.