A 25-year-old Houston man died Tuesday after he was electrocuted by a live wire in floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey while trying to check on his sister’s trapped cat, according to his family.
“He was just trying to be my hero,” Alyssa Pasek tells PEOPLE of her brother, Andrew Pasek. “He just really wanted to go and be the one to call me and tell me, ‘She’s okay, she’s fine, don’t worry.’
“He’s fearless. That kid was so brave.”
Before evacuating her Houston home on Monday, Alyssa, 27, moved her wedding dress to the second floor (she’s getting married February 12) and tried to convince her cat to come downstairs. But, the cat refused.
“She’s very large, and she’s not the nicest cat,” Alyssa says. She didn’t have a cat carrier, so she put an automatic feeder and plenty of fresh water out for D’Artagnon, a 15-pound Maine Coon cat.
Her brother texted her asking if she had left the cat behind. She said yes, but she told him not to worry.
But, he did.
Andrew, an Eagle Scout who worked as an estimator for AsTech, regularly found stray animals and took them to the vet before taking them home to care for them, his mother, JoDell Pasek, tells PEOPLE. He bottle-fed baby kittens, picked up stray dogs on the side of the road and fed all the feral cats in his neighborhood.
Andrew called his sister Tuesday afternoon and said he was in her neighborhood and was going to check on the cat.
“I said, ‘Okay, please be safe,’ ” Alyssa recalls. “I asked how deep the water was — I was so afraid of him drowning. He told me he loved me and that was it.”
The Army Corps of Engineers had done a controlled release of the Addicks Reservoir and Alyssa’s house had five feet of water inside. But Andrew told his sister the water was only knee deep in her neighbors’ lawns.
But when the water was released from the reservoir, the power wasn’t shut off, and Andrew’s ankle touched a live wire in the water, according to his family.
In October 2011, when Andrew was a sophomore studying business at the University of Texas-San Antonio, a car ran over his ankle. After three surgeries, Andrew had plates and metal screws in his ankle. The current was drawn straight to the metal, his mother says.
“Because he had plates and screws in his ankle, the minute that he stepped into the live water, it knocked him off his feet,” says JoDell, a 66-year-old substitute teacher.
“His friend was walking behind him and Andrew pushed him away and said, ‘Don’t touch me,’ ” JoDell says. “He said, ‘I’m dying,’ as he fell into this light post that must have had this live wire. The current went to his ankle and he lost his balance and he fell into the water.”
His friend ran to a nearby home on higher ground and called 911. He then called his mother who called Andrew’s mother. But because the power was on and there was current in the water, rescue workers could not get to Andrew.
“They maybe could have resuscitated him if they could have gotten to him. But the power was turned on so they couldn’t get to him. They could not go try and help him,” JoDell says. “He laid in that water. He probably drowned. And burned.”
According to Miguel Valderrabano, Director of the Division of Cardiac Electrophysiology at The Methodist Hospital in Houston, Andrew would have been able to speak after getting electrocuted in the foot.
“If you have electricity going through your body, in order for it to kill you instantly, it has to go to your heart,” Valderrabano tells PEOPLE. “Otherwise, you get skin burns… so say you have a rod in your foot from surgery, you would likely not die of electrocution.”
JoDell says her son was in the water for more than an hour-and-a-half before the power company came and turned off the power so rescue workers could retrieve his body.
The Houston Police Department directed PEOPLE’s request for comment to CenterPoint Energy. CenterPoint Energy in Houston has yet to respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
“This is where I’m angry,” she adds. “They could have electrocuted someone else. It could have been a child.”
She is now determined to speak up about safety and power lines being turned off near floodwater so that other people don’t suffer the same fate as her son.
“They flood the subdivisions, but they don’t turn off the power. It’s crazy,” she says.
JoDell says her son’s friend was a wreck when he came to the Paseck home to tell them what had happened. “He started hyperventilating. I had to put a cold rag around his neck and take him outside,” she says.
Andrew’s death comes after the loss of JoDell’s eldest son, who was killed by a drunk driver in 1993.
“It breaks my heart,” she says of Andrew. “He was just a helper. He always wanted to help. He had a Jeep Cherokee with a tow bar and he was constantly helping people with their cars out of ditches. He was always helping.”
She adds: “I love my son. And it’s so tragic that that happened. I decided that night that we want to make it count. If he was gonna have to die, I didn’t want anybody else to die doing the same thing.”
- With reporting by Rose Minutaglio