Pfc. Christopher Kent Heinz, 25, an Army combat engineer from Lockport, died Sunday in an apparent drowning near Fort Hood, Texas, the Fort Hood Public Affairs Office announced Wednesday.
The drowning occurred at Stillhouse Hollow Lake, an Army Corps of Engineers reservoir 20 minutes east of Fort Hood, where Heinz had been stationed since May 2012.
Local authorities were called at about 12:30 p.m. Sunday, said Capt. Scott Jurk of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which is investigating the incident. A dive team located Heinz and brought him to shore, where he was pronounced dead.
Jurk said there were eight to 10 witnesses present when rescuers arrived.
Jurk estimated that Heinz was submerged for as long as 40 minutes before his body was recovered.
The lengthy response time was due to the fact that the incident took place in a rural area, he said.
Although he could not provide exact details of how or why Heinz died, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation, Jurk said officials were able to rule out foul play based on witness accounts.
“We do not have any reason to believe it was anything more than an accident,” Jurk said.
A medical examiner’s report is expected in the coming weeks.
Jurk described Stillhouse Hollow Lake as a popular destination among locals, especially for fishing and camping.
Although Jurk said Heinz was found in an area of the lake not designated for swimming, he said people could still be found swimming there “all the time.”
“Every weekend there’s people there swimming,” he said.
Heinz became an active-duty soldier in January 2012 and earned several awards and decorations, including the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terror Service Medal and Army Service Medal, according to the statement from Fort Hood.
A Facebook page created Tuesday in memory of Heinz had amassed more than 1,100 “likes” by Wednesday afternoon.
“RIP Christopher Kent Heinz” featured photos of Heinz in the company of friends and loved ones, and offered those who knew him a place to share memories of “a great friend, a brave soldier, and a loving husband,” according to the page description.
A page author posted this statement Wednesday: “As we continue to grieve for the loss of Chris, please remember you are not alone. Heaven has gained another angel, and Chris is watching over each and every one of us.”