Sgt. Kelton Sphaler, 25, reportedly died after the motorized canoes he and two other individuals were in overturned on Belton Lake, in central Texas, at about 3 p.m. The lake is a roughly 30-minute drive from Fort Hood.
“The incident involved another soldier who survived and a veteran who is still listed as missing,” a Fort Hood press release reads.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has been leading the search and rescue effort that already located two of the three missing boaters. Local, state and federal agencies, including Fort Hood emergency services units, have been assisting with the search for the third boater involved in the incident.
Sphaler was assigned to the 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade.
“Our deepest sympathies are with Sergeant Kelton Sphaler’s family during this tragedy as they mourn his life,” Col. Curt King, the brigade’s commander, said in a statement. “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."
Sphaler, whose home of record was Cross City, Florida, entered active-duty in December 2013 as a Patriot fire control enhanced operator/maintainer, the Army said. He had been assigned to 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, at Fort Hood, since January.
“Sergeant Sphaler was an outstanding soldier and he was well-known by many Air Defenders across our Army,” King said. "We have chaplains and counselors available to comfort soldiers as they remember Kelton’s positive impact on their lives.”
Sphaler deployed to Bahrain in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from September 2015 to June 2016.
His 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, Air Assault Badge, Driver and Mechanic Badge and Marine Qualification Badge.
Circumstances surrounding this incident remain under investigation by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.