Fort Hood officials released the following condolence statement on Thursday for the loss of a 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade Soldier, Sgt. Kelton Sphaler.
Sphaler died in an apparent boating incident on Monday on Belton Lake. The incident involved another soldier who survived and Scott Weinhold who is still listed as missing.
“All we really want is for him to return safetly,” says Scott Weinhold’s mother, Jennifer Florin.
Florin says he loves to fish.
“Fishing is his life. He loves to fish. He has fished on this lake many times over the past few years. It’s not an unfamiliar area to him or the gentleman he was with,” Florin explains.
His boat capsized Monday night while he and his friends fished.
Today, Florin says family and friends took part in the search for the first time, searching the area where emergency crews found the body of his friend with their canoe.
“Now it appears with the Fort Hood people, as of this morning, they coordinated with fish and game and they are now alllowing us out there,” Florin explains.
Williamson County Game Warden Joel Campos said they already checked the area mutiple times searching for her son.
“We had several canines from our agency and we had a couple first responders check on land – where we found shoes, life jackets….and we searched and searched and didn’t find any footprints, anything like that. That would tell us he’s on land,” Campos explains.
Now they think he is in the water somewhere and are now using a tail fish mechanism to find him.
On Wednesday, they used a side-scan sonar.
Jennifer says the Game Warden told her they have enough resources to find her son.
“I disagree. Until my son is found, there is no limit to the resources that should be brought. And if that means you have to go over the same area three times, go over the area three times,” Florin continues.
The three individuals were apparently in motorized canoes which overturned at approximately 3:00 p.m. on Monday while out on the lake.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has led the search and rescue which located two of the three missing boaters from the incident on Lake Belton. They were assisted by several local, state and federal agencies – including Fort Hood emergency services units and are continuing to search for the third boater involved in the incident.
“Our deepest sympathies are with Sergeant Kelton Sphaler’s family during this tragedy as they mourn his life,” said Col. Curt King, commander, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. “The 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, including many of Kelton’s friends, will remember his patriotic service to America including several overseas deployments; he will be missed. Sergeant Sphaler was an outstanding Soldier and he was well-known by many Air Defenders across our Army. We have chaplains and counselors available to comfort Soldiers as they remember Kelton’s positive impact on their lives.”
Sphaler, 25, whose home of record is listed as Cross City, Florida, entered active-duty military service in December 2013 as a Patriot fire control enhanced operator/maintainer and was assigned to 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, Fort Hood, since January.
Sphaler deployed to Bahrain in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from September 2015 to June 2016.
Sphaler’s awards and decorations include a Meritorious Service Medal, four Army Achievement Medals, one Army Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbons, Air Assault Badge, Driver and Mechanic Badge and Marine Qualification Badge Expert Rifle.
Circumstances surrounding this incident remain under investigation by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
For more information, you can view our previous story here.
Source: Fort Hood Press Center