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MARY MEAUX — GoFundMe set to help 2 heroes who drowned trying to save child

A GoFundMe account is set up to help send the bodies of two young heroes back to Honduras for burial after they drowned trying to save a child and her father.

Jaerson Alvarez and Wilmer Alexi Rodriguez, both 18, of Beaumont died Sunday while trying to rescue a father and daughter from the Trinity River in Moss Hill, according to the “Funeral Fund for Trinity River heroes” page.

In the photos provided by their families, Alvarez is holding his month-old baby girl. Both men are wearing baseball caps with a smile on their faces.

According to the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, several people were swimming on Sunday in what they call the dangerous waters of the Trinity River at the Highway 105 bridge, just west of Moss Hill. A 5-year-old girl became distressed and was in danger of drowning, and her father, Abel Castellanos, 25, managed to reach her daughter as the two Good Samaritans attempted to help.

“During this rescue effort, Castellanos pulled his daughter to safety but not before ingesting river water, creating a medical emergency which resulted in him being flown by Life Flight to a Houston hospital for treatment,” according to the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office.

During the rescue effort, the two teens who were trying to assist in reaching the child became distressed and sank below the surface and did not resurface.

A number of agencies responded to search for the young men, including the Tarkington Volunteer Fire Department, the Cypress Lakes Volunteer Fire Department and Texas Game Wardens. The search ended when it became dark outside and resumed the next morning.

Rodriguez was recovered at approximately 8:55 a.m. Monday; Alvarez was recovered at approximately 9:15 a.m.

They were found in approximately 45 feet of water using a side scan sonar.

This river, like some in our area, can be dangerous. County officials there advise the public not to swim in that part of the river as it has claimed several lives in the past.

“Although the water appears to be very placid on the surface, immediately below the surface there is always a strong current that can pull a person downstream quickly,” Capt. Ken DeFoor said in the press release.

“In addition, the river bottom is covered with large holes where one minute a person may be at waist deep water but the next step drops them into a hole of 40 feet to 50 feet of swift water. In the last several years, very large signs have been posted along the river’s edge warning the public of the dangers of this area of water, but the signs have been torn down and used for camp fires, thus defeating their life-saving purpose.”

Being on the coastline, Jefferson County has many bodies of water to fish or play in and we should take care when going in.

Mary Meaux is a news reporter at The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at mary.meaux@panews.com.