Ute Lake death blamed on ‘reckless vessel operation’

QCS Staff

A fatal accident at Ute Lake on Aug. 14 has been blamed on “reckless vessel operation,” according to a report by Park Manager James Gurule.

Officials said Noah Escoto, 24, of Amarillo, was struck by a pontoon boat and died from injuries a day later.

The pontoon boat, operated by Ryan Harrington of Amarillo, struck Escoto after he was thrown from a jet ski operated by Justin Starnes, also of Amarillo, according to the report.

The report shows the jet ski cut in front of the pontoon boat, and Escoto was thrown from the jet ski into the path of the boat.

“This accident was a result of Starnes and Escoto’s reckless vessel operation placing them in close proximity of the pontoon boat where Harrington was unable to avoid hitting Escoto after he had fallen from the back of the PWC (personal watercraft),” Gurule wrote in his report.

Neither Starnes nor Harrington could be reached for comment this week.

The report states Escoto encouraged Starnes to “cut them off,” just before the accident, which occurred near Windy Point camp site at Ute Lake.

His friends pulled Escoto from the water and called 911.

Gurule said emergency medical personnel transported Escoto to Dan C. Trigg Memorial Hospital in Tucumcari. Escoto died Aug. 15 at Regional Medical Center in Lubbock.

Gurule said after he interviewed the witnesses he found several empty beer cans, about a third of a 1.75-liter bottle of rum and a substance known as PEP, a “high breed tobacco,”