Galveston Victim Remembered: "Gail's Voice was Shaky with Fear"
FREE SPIRIT Gail Ettenger, 58, a native of New Jersey stayed put at her home in the Bolivar Peninsula, but as water rose, she rang a friend, "Oh, oh, I screwed up this time."
Her friend recalls, "Gail's voice was shaky with fear."
Sadly, Gail Ettenger's body was one of the first of those washed up to be identified as the search goes on for up to 300 plucky people who may also have misjudged the force of the elements.
Gail Ettenger stumbled upon her house in Gilchrist by accident. But once she saw the site on the bay side of Bolivar Peninsula, she knew she would never leave.
Ettenger, a native of New Jersey, instilled the house with her own energy and style. The 58-year-old's garden bloomed with vibrant birds-of-paradise.
And Reba, an 11-year-old Great Dane hobbled by arthritis, was her baby. Ettenger loved to treat the dog to dinners of chicken and roast beef, recalled JoAnne Burks, Ettenger's neighbor and close friend.
Ettenger, a chemist at ExxonMobil, didn't evacuate, reasoning that her house had weathered Hurricane Rita in 2005 without a problem. She also did not want to leave Reba, who could no longer climb into Ettenger's Jeep.
Burks and her husband pleaded with Ettenger to change her mind. But she insisted.
Hours before Ike made landfall, Ettenger knew she had made the wrong choice. She called Burks and described the water pushing up under her feet, the propane tanks and other household items drifting by her windows, and wondered which would float better: her Jeep or her house.
Her voice was shaky with fear, Burks said.
Gail L Ettenger, 58, of Gilchrist has been identified as the body found washed up in debris. Just before the Hurricane which devastated the Gilchrist area, the victim had rang up a friend on a cellphone to say that she was ankle-deep in water. She was an employee at Exxon Refinery.
(September 26, 2008)—A woman whose body was found in hurricane debris in Anahuac phoned a friend before Ike made landfall on Sept. 13 and said her home on the Bolivar Peninsula was ankle deep.
Chambers County Sheriff Joe LaRive identified the woman Friday as Gail L. Ettenger, 58, of Gilchrist.
Searchers recovered her body Tuesday afternoon in a debris field in southern Chambers County.
Ettenger was identified through fingerprint comparisons.
She was last heard from at approximately 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 13, around the time Ike made landfall at Galveston.
The sheriff says Ettenger phoned a friend to say the water had risen to ankle deep levels in the elevated beach cabin where she lived.
LaRive says Ettenger was a lab employee at the Exxon Mobil Refinery in Beaumont.
US Wildlife Officers have found the body of a woman washed up amongst huge piles of debris caused by Hurricane Ike twelve days ago. The body is believed to have been swept along from the Bolivar Peninsula eastwards towards Chambers County where it was found. The woman is believed to have drowned although the cause of death is not yet known for certain.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife refuge officers found the body of the unidentified female clad only in a bra in a debris pile east of FM 562, between Lone Oak Bayou and Lake Surprise, officials said. Investigators said they believe the woman drowned because of the absence of broken bones or other signs of trauma.
"At this time, it is very difficult to know how many people are really missing from the Bolivar Peninsula after the storm, or if there are remains in these debris fields. But if there are, then we want to make sure we find them,"Chambers County Sheriff Joe LaRive said.
"We do know that much of what was at Gilchrist and Crystal Beach (communities on Bolivar) before the storm is now five or six miles inland in Chambers County."
For more than six days, searchers have trudged through high water and knee-deep mud, braving alligators, snakes and swarms of mosquitoes to comb through the debris.
The miles of debris have been divided into 44 piles investigators say will take several weeks to sift through. Chambers County sheriff's deputies are being assisted by U.S. Fish and Wildlife refuge officers, Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens, Greater Houston Search Dogs and K-9 units and Port Arthur police officers.
The massive piles contain nail-studded lumber, appliances, household goods, mattresses and trash. Boats also are nestled in trees and entire sections of walls and staircases are strewn on remote ranches and national refuge land.
Officials described the body as that of a white woman in her late 40s or early 50s, 5 feet 6 inches tall, with a medium build and short brown hair. The Jefferson County Medical Examiner reported the victim had some dental work and a scar from a hysterectomy.