An evening of family fun ended in tragedy at about 7:15 p.m. Sunday evening in the Trinity River at the Highway 105 bridge just west of Moss Hill. According to Liberty County Sheriff’s lead Investigator Sean Mitchell, several people were swimming in the dangerous waters of the river when a little 5-year-old girl became distressed and was in danger of drowning. Her father, Abel Castellanos, 25, managed to reach his daughter as two Good Samaritans, Jaerson Alvarez, 18, and Wilmer Alexi Rodriguez, 17, also reacted and attempted to help the little girl.
During this rescue effort, Castellanos pulled his daughter to safety but not before ingesting river water creating a medical emergency which resulted in his being flown by Life Flight to a Houston hospital for treatment. According to Investigator Mitchell, during this rescue effort, the two teens who were trying to assist in reaching the child became distressed, sank and did not resurface.
Recovery efforts by the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, the Tarkington Volunteer Fire Department, the Cypress Lakes Volunteer Fire Department and Texas Game Wardens produced no positive results as darkness fell. All search efforts were suspended at dark but were resumed Monday morning at daybreak. At about 8:55 a.m., Rodriguez’s body was recovered, then a short time later at 9:15 a.m. the body of Alvarez was recovered by the Tarkington Fire Department and Cypress Lake Fire Department in approximately 45 feet of water using side scan sonar.
Pct. 5 Justice of the Peace Judge Wade Brown arrived at the scene and conducted the inquest. He also ordered an autopsy.
County officials, like Liberty County Fire Marshal Bill Hergermueller, continue to advise the public not to swim in this particular area of the river which 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. 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 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.
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