2 drown while trying to save 17-year-old friend struggling in Florida river

Caloosahatchee River

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — A rescue attempt by two men assisting a 17-year-old boy struggling in a southwest Florida river ended in tragedy Saturday as all three drowned, authorities said.

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According to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, the victims were Santos Tiul-Chen, 17; Victor Pedro-Gaspar, 19; and Pedro Miguel Pascual, 21. The three drowned in the Caloosahatchee River at W.P. Franklin Lock Park, located northeast of Fort Myers in Alva, WFTX-TV reported.

The sheriff’s office said that Tiul-Chen, who had no swimming experience, went into 10 feet of water and struggled, according to WBBH-TV.

Pascual jumped into the water to save his friend but had trouble staying afloat, the Fort Myers News-Press reported.

Pedro-Gaspar soon entered the water to assist the other two, but all three victims went under the water and did not resurface, according to the newspaper.

A fourth person also attempted to render aid but made it back to shore, the News-Press reported. They were taken to an area hospital.

First responders arriving at the scene attempted to revive the three people but were unsuccessful, according to WFTX.

Neyda Velasquez, a friend of the victims, said that Pedro-Gaspar and Pascual knew how to swim and called them heroes for trying to save Tiul-Chen.

“It’s actually something heroic,” she told WBBH. “They did to try to save their friend that was drowning, but it all soundly ended in tragedy, trying to save their one loved friend.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 4,000 people die each year from unintentional drowning.

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