TEMPLE — A Belton diver suffered fatal injuries when she was pulled into an underwater hole during a missing person search at Fort Hood, Bell County officials said Monday.
Authorities are still investigating the death of Lori Pohanka-Kalama, a Morgan’s Point Resort Dive Team member who aided the Fort Hood search Saturday.
The 46-year-old died Sunday morning at Scott & White Medical Center-Temple.
Officials at Fort Hood and the Morgan’s Point Resort Police Department are conducting separate, but ongoing investigations.
Bell County Emergency Management Coordinator Michael Harmon said Pohanka-Kalama was pulled into the underwater hole and remained trapped at the bottom of a low-water dam on House Creek near Turkey Run Road. Air remained inside Pohanka-Kalama’s tank when she was removed from the water, Harmon said.
“It was a freak accident,” Harmon said at a Monday workshop of the Bell County Commissioners Court. “There was some deficit at the bottom of the dam where water was flowing through. The vacuum of the water is what pulled her into a hole.”
Harmon said fellow divers were able to get a rope around Pohanka-Kalama and pull her out after about a 15-minute effort. She was transported to Carl R. Darnall Medical Center at Fort Hood and then to Scott & White Medical Center-Temple, where she died Sunday morning.
Bell County Commissioner John Fisher said it was fortunate no one else was harmed.
“If it happened to her, then it’s lucky that it didn’t happen to somebody else trying to retrieve her,” Fisher said.
Pohanka-Kalama worked professionally as a speech pathologist. She worked for the Killeen Independent School District from 2012 to 2013, KISD spokesman Shannon Rideout said.
“It’s just terrible,” County Judge Jon Burrows said. “Terrible.”
The Morgan’s Point Resort Dive Team consists of about 22 members. The city’s police Chief Fred Churchill said Monday that Pohanka-Kalama had been a member of the dive team for about two years.
He said the team is one of the only agencies in the area qualified to conduct water searches.
“There were some areas that needed to be searched and the only way to search them was by diver because of the depth of the water,” he said. “Nobody else in the area has the training, equipment or skill set to go into those areas and do recovery diving.”
Hours after Pohanka-Kalama’s death, the dive team went back out to help, Churchill said. The team went to Temple Lake Park on Sunday afternoon to recover the body of a Fort Hood soldier who drowned at Belton Lake.
Services for Pohanka-Kalama are pending. Harper-Talasek Funeral Home in Temple is handling arrangements.