A 22-year-old California man who didn't know how to swim died trying to save a five-year old child from drowning in a rushing current in the state's sprawling Sequoia National Park, his sister told ABC News today.
Victor Mozqueda was on a walk beside the Kaweah River on Saturday when Vincent Gonzalez slipped into the raging river.
He went in after the boy, and repeatedly pushed him to the surface so he could breathe.
"He never let go of [Gonzalez] even when they went down under the [currents] a few times," Mozqueda's sister-in-law, Carmen Hernandez, wrote on a GoFundMe page she created to help pay for Mozqueda's funeral expenses.
Hernandez wrote that Mozqueda's "last effort" was to "throw Vincent out of the strong [current] so that his father could barely grab him."
Gonzalez's parents had also jumped into the water, and three nearby fishermen helped to get the parents and their child out.
The boy's father and a fisherman performed CPR and were able to resuscitate him, according to Anita Baker, the boy's mother.
The boy was then transported by ambulance to the Life Flight helicopter - a non-profit emergency transport network serving the U.S. Northwest - and flown to Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia, California, according to local authorities.
But Mozqueda, of Santa Clarita, California, was nowhere to be found. It was two hours before rescuers were able to retrieve his body.
Mozqueda's sister, Maria Ventura, told ABC News that her brother "didn't think twice" before going in after the boy.
"God gave him super strength," she said. "He was holding that child above his head, and threw him up to the child’s father.”
Ventura said Mozqueda's family is devastated.
"We are more than sad. We wish he didn't have to go."
In an interview with ABC News, Baker said her son was released from the hospital and is now back home and healthy.
But she said the family will be forever in debt to Mozqueda.
“Words cannot express how thankful I am to have my son back because of the selfless act he did for my son,” she said.
It was the second river fatality at that location -- just inside the park's gates -- in Sequoia National Park in two weeks, Sequoia District Ranger Dave Fox said in a statement.
"The rocks are super slick on the river's edge, and people should avoid getting close to the water."