BRA Lake Ranger can’t hide heroism despite best efforts

Ask Lake Ranger/Permit Safety Officer Kyle Lewis to talk about himself and he’ll swiftly turn the conversation to a matter he finds more important, like water safety. But the quiet, unassuming manner doesn’t hide a depth of caring of this career peace officer that now specializes in environmental offenses. And, according to several locals, his self-deprecating humor doesn’t hide his heroism.

Sitting behind his desk at the Brazos River Authority Lake Granbury office, which overlooks the DeCordova Bend Dam, Lewis begins pulling up photographs from previous water safety events. For Lewis, it’s the work and efforts to ensure everyone gets home safely that’s important, when in reality, it’s the man behind the title that makes the work so successful.

Lewis has spent more than 30 years in law enforcement and BRA staff have felt fortunate the majority of that time has been with them.

He joined the crew as a Lake Ranger 16 years ago, after having worked with the Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Office, and before that, the Dublin Police Department, where he started in 1989.

“This job is fun. There’s a lot of good stuff about it,” he said.

Becoming a Lake Ranger introduced him to investigations of different crimes, including environmental matters, Lewis said.

Oil spills haven’t been a concern for many years, but sewage spills – whether intentional or not – have prompted numerous investigations over the years. Sometimes investigation are prompted by a phone call from a concerned neighbor or someone visiting the lake. Other times it may be due to a large amount of fish dying in an area or the water having an odd appearance. When there is cause for concern or an investigation, Lewis said, he’ll take water samples in the area, upstream and downstream to see how far something may have spread. Samples are also taken over a period of time, to ensure the reading wasn’t a one-time scenario. All samples, marked and labeled, are kept on ice and swiftly sent to Tiffany Morgan, BRA environmental and compliance manager, where she “puts it in a magic bag and shakes it around,” according to Lewis.

If the results of the samples determine it’s a case in need of investigating, he said, they’ll attempt to determine which house or source may have dumped the contaminate in the water. Evidence can be used to prosecute someone or to force someone to clean up a mess, he said. Sometimes environmental concerns in the water, like a sewage leak, are fairly easy to identify while other times it’s near impossible as the water continues to flow downstream, he said. A heavy rain or flood will push all sorts of things into the water from people’s surrounding property.

“It’s different. It’s a whole different form of law enforcement,” Lewis said. “You’re limited in some ways but also you’re doing different things.”

Lewis has a way of inspiring others to do more, Morgan said.

“His drive, his passion, his tenacity, his ability to get the other lake rangers interested, or to inspire some more interest, he definitely inspires others,” Morgan said. “He works back and forth with my staff really well when he’s got something tricky he’s trying to do or supporting another law enforcement agency. It’s always been a very easy relationship.”

Lewis has been hazmat trained, and has taught environmental crime courses, including classes with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

A few years with the BRA and the permit position came open, allowing him to expand his job description, he said.

Lewis is willing to take on any task, project, issue or mystery and will stay on it until he gets results, said Connie Tucker, Lake Granbury reservoir manager.

“He has a great sense of humor, which can diffuse heated situations,” Tucker said. “He’s from this area and knows practically everyone, or knows someone who knows that person, which provides him avenues to get information.” “He is one of our ‘go-to’ employees for outside agencies and businesses. If he doesn’t know something, he knows someone who does, and others turn to him for that ability,” she said.

Not all parts of the job are fun. Lewis stops short of expanding on stories and instances where he’s pulled a young body from the water and the devastating task of telling a parent what had occurred. He’s had to do that “too many times” over the years.

“It doesn’t have to be a kid, any drowning is bad,” he said. “Those are stories you don’t tell people.”

“Sometimes you just have to put your game face on,” Lewis said.

Lewis found himself in the news in January for something he’s still not interested in discussing. About 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28, Lewis was driving home when he came up upon an auto accident that had occurred minutes before. He found a 17-year-old female from Mineral Wells who was unresponsive and with no pulse before EMS arrived. He immediately began CPR.

First responders at the scene said his actions probably saved her life, according to The Flash Today. After some effort, he successfully resuscitated her.

Lewis said he just “pumped and prayed.” As she started to come to, she grabbed his wrist.

Troopers were notified of a two-vehicle crash on State Highway 6 at the West Loop near Dublin, according to The Flash Today. A 2011 Nissan Sentra was traveling south on the frontage road approaching a stop sign and failed to yield the right of way to a 2015 Dodge Ram truck causing the collision.

With first responders on the scene to care for the young woman, Lewis then pulled the driver of the Dodge Ram out through the sunroof of his vehicle.

The man kept repeating he couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t breathe, Lewis said, adding he assumed that man had a collapsed lung.

“I helped him get out through the sunroof and helped him lay down,” he said.

Two months after the accident, that man was driving through Dublin when he stopped at the local fire department and asked if anyone knew the man who saved him. The firefighters, knowing Lewis, passed on a phone number.

Lewis said he was so surprised to hear from the man. “He said, ‘I had to thank you in person,’” Lewis said. “I didn’t really do anything but get the guy out of the truck.”

His life-saving actions are no surprise to his coworkers.

“Kyle Lewis exemplifies the term ‘service to community,’” said Michael McClendon, BRA Upper Basin Regional Manager. “He is truly dedicated to helping others and like many that choose to pursue a law enforcement career, a very humble, honorable and caring man.”

Intertwined between that his life revolves around “farming and cows. That’s all we ever did,” said Lewis, who started driving a tractor when he was six years old. Among the decorations throughout his office, which includes pictures of his 25- and 19-year-old daughters and 12-year-old son -- and a clown wig -- is a Mater tow truck toy, one of the main characters in the movie Cars.

Lewis finds relaxation in taking care of his dozen cattle and raising hay on his property west of Stephenville, roughly an hour from the office. Helping to bring a new calf into the world, and seeing the first wobbly steps, is cool no matter how many times you have seen it, he said.

When he is not working his property, he helps his brother, who has another 30 head of cattle on adjacent land.

“There for a while, me and my brother were taking his, mine, and my dad and we were taking care of close to 100 head,” he said. “We’re real close, but that’s all we’ve ever known.”