Questions are being raised about the safety of some rental boats on North Texas lakes following the drownings of two sisters over the weekend.
Teegan Hill and Troinee Broom drowned during a rental boat ride on Lake Lewisville on Sunday.
It was Hill’s 31st birthday.
Hill and Broom attended Lancaster High School and graduated in 2008 and 2011, respectively. Lancaster ISD released a statement about their deaths Wednesday.
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Broom became a kindergarten teacher.
Hill became an attorney and went to Thurgood Marshall School of Law with Thelma Anderson.
“My friend had the purest heart,” Anderson said.
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Family and friends went to Lake Lewisville on Sunday, July 4, the day Teegan turned 31.
She'd chartered a pontoon boat that left shore with 12 people on board.
Just 10 returned.
Friends say Hill and Broom fell in when the pontoon boat they were on was hit by a wave and began taking on water.
“Everything happened so fast. We went from enjoying her birthday and getting ready to leave to go home, to the boat being submerged in water and it's tipping over,” Anderson said.
Officials searched for about five hours before the sisters were recovered about 800 yards east of Pilot Knoll Park in Argyle, according to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s report.
The outcome, Highland Village Fire Chief Mike Thomson said, likely would've been different if they were wearing life jackets.
People onboard the boat, including Anderson and Dravius Jones, say they were never told where the life jackets were before the accident or given any safety briefing at all.
“When we got on board, no one told us that there were lifejackets onboard, like no one mentioned the life jackets,” Jones said.
“That simply was not communicated at all. It was, ‘Hey, let’s have a good time and enjoy the ride' and that’s not ok,” Anderson said.
Steve Moore, a licensed captain, says the tragedy is part of a bigger problem he’s been trying to draw attention to for years.
“Rental boats and rental jet skies are likely the number one danger on Lake Lewisville,” Moore said.
Here's why Moore says rentals can be dangerous:
Much of the boat rental industry, he says, falls into a loophole between state and federal regulations.
“It’s not really regulated by the federal regulations,” Moore said, adding it’s because Lake Lewisville is considered a ‘non-navigable' waterway.
Texas has a "Party Boat Program" requiring boat operators to complete a boater education course, a license exam, and undergo an annual safety inspection.
But the license isn’t required for boats less than 30 feet in length, and single-deck pontoon boats, like the rental friends say they took Sunday, are typically 25 feet or less.
“So basically anyone with a website and some type of boat or jet ski seem to want to rent those to anyone regardless of education or boating experience, that's a huge red flag,” Moore said.
NBC 5 wanted to ask the charter company -- friends say Hill rented from -- about safety protocols.
When we didn't hear back, we went to company addresses listed online.
One was a public park in Lewisville.
The other was an apartment in Lewisville where the man who answered told us he ‘wasn’t the captain of the boat’ before closing the door.
“You can't continue to lose lives the way that this happened so tragically and something not be done,” Anderson said.
Thelma says she plans to pursue stronger protocols to protect the countless people who charter boats each year so a day on the water doesn't end in disaster again.
A vigil for Hill and Broom is scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. at Lancaster High School's track where they both ran.
Captains NBC 5 spoke with say Texas should adopt and enforce federal coast guard regulations so rental boat operators would have to be licensed captains, pass boat inspections by the coast guard, and undergo random drug testing.
Click here for advice for people looking to charter a boat.