Game wardens report Mexican helicopter incursion off Falcon Lake

A group of game wardens patrolling the waters of Falcon Lake got a surprise from a Mexican military helicopter earlier this week.

It all happened in just northwest of Zapata in the Chipote Cove of Falcon Lake on Tuesday morning.

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Capt. Fernando Cervantes spoke with Action 4 News about the incident.

He said no injuries were reported and that it ended peacefully.

The incident was not videotaped or photographed.


Capt. Cervantes said a group of game wardens was out on patrol when they saw a Mexican military helicopter enter American airspace.

The helicopter flew over the area where the game wardens were and then returned to Mexico after spending a couple minutes on the Texas side of the lake.

Cervantes said he reported the incident to the Zapata County Sheriff TMs Office but game wardens were not able to determine why the Mexican military helicopter crossed the lake.

We don TMt know why they came across, Cervantes said.

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department captain said game wardens routinely see military helicopters conducting operations on the Mexican side of the lake.

He said Mexican military helicopters are sometimes seen across the Rio Grande River from San Ygnacio, Texas and across Falcon Lake near Nueva Ciudad Guerrero, Tamaulipas.

But the incident on Tuesday has Cervantes and his men wondering why they had crossed at that particular point.

What were they doing on this side, Cervantes asked.

Boater Warning

The incident comes amid a standing Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) warning about armed men robbing boaters on the lake, which straddles the U.S./Mexico border.

Some boaters have reported to the Zapata County Sheriff's Office that they've been approached by boats from the Mexican side but they didn't stick around to find out what they wanted.

We tell boaters to report any suspicious activity to us or to other law enforcement officials, Cervantes told Action 4 News.

The Mexican side of the lake has also been the scene of numerous gun battles between drug traffickers and the Mexican military.

Tourist David Hartley was killed by gunmen back in September 2010 while jet skiing with his wife Tiffany Hartley near the ruins of Guerrero Viejo on the Mexican side of the lake.

Four suspects have reportedly been identified in the case but their names have not been relesaed.

No arrests have been publicly announced in connection with the case.

Helicopter Incursions

Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez told Action 4 News that it TMs not the first or last time Mexican military helicopters have entered Texas airspace.

The first reports about Mexican military helicopters entering the airspace Rio Grande Valley communities from Brownsville to Falcon Lake starting back in March 2010.

But Sheriff Gonzalez reported that the incursions have not stopped in Zapata County and the Falcon Lake area.

They TMre almost a daily occurrence here, Gonzalez said.

Federal officials reported in previous interviews that the Mexican military routinely conducts operations against drug traffickers on their side of the border.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations officials reported that a long-standing agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada allows for temporary incursions for medical or law enforcement purposes.