Two Teens Die While Trying to Save 5-Year-Old Girl From Texas River: 'True Heroes'
The two teens were identified as Jaerson Alvarez, 18, and Wilmer Alexi Rodriguez, 17
Two teenagers are being praised as heroes after they drowned while trying to save a young girl and her father from a Texas river on Sunday.
The bodies of 18-year-old Jaerson Alvarez and 17-year-old Wilmer Alexi Rodriguez were recovered on Monday morning after they went missing on Sunday evening, CBS affiliate KHOU reported.
The two had reportedly attempted to rescue a 5-year-old girl who was struggling in the water of Trinity River in Liberty County, located just over 50 miles from Houston.
Abel Castellanos, the girl's 25-year-old father, was injured after going into the water to retrieve his daughter, and was airlifted to a Houston trauma center, Blue Bonnet News reported.
"This river, at this location, has claimed many lives over the past years," Liberty County Sheriff’s Capt. Ken DeFoor told reporters on Monday. "We constantly advise the public not to swim here. The river, on the surface, looks very placid, but there is an undercurrent all the time in this river."
"The bottom is extremely irregular," he added. "You can go from waist-deep water and step off into a hole that is 40-50 feet deep."
DeFoor said there are other dangers around the river that make it perilous to visitors, such as alligators and hidden trash and metal.
"It’s not a safe place to swim even though the sandbar looks inviting," he said. “Over the years, there have been numerous, very large wooden signs posted here warning of the dangers of swimming here, but the public keeps tearing them down, breaking them up and using them for campfire wood,” DeFoor said. “So our warnings are verbal: Don’t try to swim here.”
According to Blue Bonnet News, Alvarez recently became a father, and both he and Rodriguez worked as bricklayers. Both were enjoying a day of fishing before going into the river to help the young girl.
Alvarez and Rodriguez's bodies were located with the use of sonar in about 45 feet of water, KHOU reported. Authorities did not give an update on Castellanos' condition.
A GoFundMe was set up for Alvarez and Rodriguez on Tuesday, with the goal of sending their bodies back Honduras for burial. It has since raised nearly $700 as of Tuesday afternoon.
"True heroes, so many prayers for the families, they raised true angels," one commenter wrote of the two on social media.
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Osman Ariel Nieto Baua, Alvarez's brother-in-law, also entered the water with the teens, and told Blue Bonnet News that he was ultimately able to take the 5-year-old girl back to safety. By the time he made it to shore, he says he was too weak to go back into the water to rescue Alvarez and Rodriguez.
"Jaerson was a very good person. When he looked at people on the street, he would take money from his pocket and give it to them. It didn’t matter if it was $2 or $5," Baua said. "He was thinking of his daughter when he saw that little girl. When you see someone crying for help, you have to do that. If they die [because you didn’t help], that’s your fault. He was working hard to go somewhere with his life."