The four siblings and their parents were swimming at Sylvan Beach on Thursday night when the tragedy unfolded.

By Joelle Goldstein
August 12, 2019
Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

A Houston mother and father, who were parents to four children, have been left “distraught” and heartbroken after three of their kids tragically drowned while swimming in Texas this week.

Their fourth child, a 10-year-old boy, miraculously survived the devastating incident on Thursday evening, thanks to Veronika Alvarez, a bystander who witnessed the situation from the beach and jumped in to save the boy without hesitation, ABC 13 reports.

“I just did a jump in the water — go straight for the boy drowning,” Alvarez, 23, told the outlet. “I kept him up, but the current kept pulling us both down, so I knew to just keep him up. I didn’t care if I drowned or not.”

The tragedy unfolded just before 7:30 p.m. on Thursday while the family of six was enjoying the water at Sylvan Beach Park in La Porte, a spokesperson with the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) announced in a statement on Facebook.

“Upon arrival of the Chambers County deputies, it was learned that a family from the Houston area were swimming in the park when an otherwise beautiful afternoon took a tragic turn,” the post says, adding that the LaPorte, Texas Police Department also responded to the incident.

According to the CCSO spokesperson, the mother, father and four children, who ranged in age from 7 to 13, were swimming when they “began having trouble in the water.”

Alvarez, who was sitting on the sand at the time of the incident, said her dog started barking when the family started to struggle in the water, according to ABC 13.

She also noted to the outlet that the parents and their children were on separate sides of the water, but it was clear that the youngsters did not know how to swim and that the parents were having a difficult time attempting to rescue them.

“I saw the parents were trying to grab them, but then I saw the mom and dad go under,” she recalled, before heroically jumping in after the child. “I didn’t know it was super deep where he was, where everyone was drowning.”

With the help of Alvarez and other beachgoers, the parents and their 10-year-old son were rescued from the aggressive waters.

Their three other children, however — a 13-year-old girl, and two boys ages 11 and 7 — were sadly “seen by bystanders going under [the] water and not resurfacing,” the CCSO spokesperson said.

Authorities immediately kicked off a search of the area waters, where they eventually recovered all three of the children’s bodies just a short distance from where they were last spotted, according to the CCSO spokesperson.

The children were pronounced dead at the scene and are expected to have autopsies performed on their bodies by the Jefferson County Medical Examiner’s Office. Their identities have not yet been released.

Alvarez, who was taken to the hospital for inhaling “small amounts of water” into her lungs but was released overnight, said she was heartbroken to learn that the boy’s three siblings had died in the incident, as she was unaware at the time that they also needed help.

“I thought the other hands I was feeling were the people around me,” Alvarez told ABC 13. “I didn’t know there were other kids going down. I would have tried my best. I found out at the hospital there were three other ones, and I just started crying.”

As for what prompted her to take such quick action? “A life is a life,” she said.

“It just depended on someone jumping in,” Alvarez continued. “I just jumped in because no one was responding. Everybody was quick to grab their phones, but I was like, it’s not important. What’s important is the people who are drowning.”

The surviving boy, meanwhile, was treated by EMS at the scene and was released to his parents, according to the outlet.

The CCSO spokesperson said an investigation by authorities is now currently underway, as they wait to release the names of the deceased until the family, who recently moved to Houston, is properly cared for and all other immediate relatives are notified.

Though the cause of the incident has not yet been determined, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez suggested in a tweet that the family may have “went beyond a water safety buoy, and were overcome by waves,” due to “strong tides and rip currents.”

Gonzalez later told OnScene.TV that police are also looking into whether a large boat went by and created rough waters, according to CNN.

“Things happened really quickly,” Gonzalez said, per CNN. “A lot of people were out here, the kids were playing, Mom and Dad were here, as well.”

The Sheriff also noted that after the four-hour search for the children and learning of their tragic deaths, the parents “are very distraught.”

“There’s no way to make it any softer,” he said.

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