HomeTop Headlines3 Men Drown Saving Friend in River

3 Men Drown Saving Friend in River

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A seemingly peaceful day took a tragic turn when three young men tragically drowned in the Caloosahatchee River near Franklin Lock, Alva, Florida on Saturday, May 18, 2024.

The drowned individuals, identified as Pedro Miguel Pascual, aged 21, Victor Pedro-Gaspar, 19, and Santos Tiul-Chen, 17, had attended a youth church gathering. They decided to stay behind and swim after the event, oblivious to the imminent danger.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office stated that Tiul-Chen, who had limited swimming skills, got into the water and started struggling instantly. Pascual, attempting to aid him, jumped in but also began to go underwater.

Pedro-Gaspar made a courageous attempt to rescue his friends by entering the water, but tragically, all three young men were submerged and did not come up. A fourth person also tried to assist but managed to return to shore and was subsequently hospitalized.

“It’s incredibly sad. We can’t come to terms with it… everyone is struggling, especially the families. Imagine seeing your son leave in the morning and never return. It’s really hard to accept. We still can’t believe it’s real,” expressed Neyda Velasquez, a close acquaintance of the victims.

The Franklin Lock area is signposted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with warnings against swimming, wading, snorkeling, or scuba diving due to the inherent risks. Despite the warnings, the three young men entered the water, resulting in a tragic incident. The park has since reopened with temporary bilingual signs throughout the site, and patrols by rangers and volunteers have been intensified to ensure safety.

Mike Ritter, an Alva resident who frequently visits the park, stressed the importance of heeding the posted warnings. “I think that it is probably wise to pay attention to the signs in the area and kind of heed the warning for whatever the reasons are,” stated Ritter.

The investigation unveiled that Tiul-Chen’s inadequate swimming abilities contributed to the initial struggle, which rapidly escalated as his friends tried to save him. The water in the area is approximately 10 feet deep, which compounded the difficulty of the rescue endeavors.

“It’s a boat access point, so there are always boats coming and going. The sign clearly says no swimming. We just come here to fish and stick to that,” added Ritter.

Florida ranks second in child drowning fatalities among all U.S. states, targeting ages one to four, and fifth overall for drowning incidents across all ages. This incident underscores the vital need for awareness about water safety and the significance of adhering to safety guidelines in potentially hazardous areas.

As of the latest update on May 22, swimming has been prohibited at the location.

The local community continues to grieve the loss of these young lives. The church has arranged memorial services to pay tribute to the victims. “They were kind young men devoted to the work of our Lord Jesus,” Velasquez said, reflecting on the substantial impact of the three on their community.

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