Area near where teen went overboard shut down to commercial traffic

Published 3:21 pm Tuesday, May 30, 2023

PORT NECHES — Search teams are continuing their efforts to find 14-year-old Conner Curtice who fell overboard a boat Monday afternoon.

The search resumed Tuesday morning and is focused on one area in the Neches River, officials shared at approximately 2:40 p.m. Tuesday.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden Ryan Hall said the U.S. Coast Guard shut down commercial traffic in the area they are searching.

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The Groves teen’s aunt, Cynthia Hernandez Hunter, said he grew up hunting and fishing with her family and was an avid fisherman.

Hunter was among a group of people at Port Neches Riverfront Park Tuesday morning awaiting word on Curtice.

Hunter said her nephew just turned 14 last week and is a good kid.

“Our family’s hearts are broken” Hunter said while seated in a utility terrain vehicle near the water. “One good thing about our family is how close were are as a family. We support each other and set out to get things done. We’ll find him.”

There were a number of social media posts asking for prayers for the family, including from the Rev. Brent Sparks of Encounter Church, where the family attends.


Curtice and an 18-year-old male were boating at 3:15 p.m. Monday in the Neches River near Deck Hand Alley when both teens fell overboard.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden Ryan Hall said it appears some water may have gotten in the boat and they were either putting the plug back in or getting water out while holding on near the motor and both fell overboard. The younger teen was seen floating as if injured, but the 18-year-old was unable to reach him and the teen went under, authorities said.

TP&W dispatched boats with side scan capabilities, and Jefferson County Marine Unit and Port Neches Fire Department also responded. A TP&D boat spotted an image in the river and contacted the Beaumont Fire Department dive team.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Marine Division, Texas Game Wardens and Port Neches Fire Department searched the area until dark Monday but were unable to locate the teen. Due to safety concerns, the search was suspended until first light Tuesday morning, according to information from the Sheriff’s Office.

The search resumed Tuesday morning.

Hunter said Curtice’s father and others searched overnight and were still searching Tuesday morning while others joined the search around 7 a.m.

Not all at the riverfront were family. Carol Sigona and a friend stood by watching and waiting.

“We just came out. We don’t know the family, we’re just concerned about the little boy,” Sigona said.

A member of Curtice’s family put a call out on social media Monday night asking for any boaters available to join in the search.

Multiple boats were seen launching from the boat ramps Tuesday and the parking lot was filled with boat trailers and vehicles but it is not known how many were associated with the search.