Body found of Waterloo man who saved children in Lake Erie
KITCHENER -- The body of a Waterloo man, who saved children in choppy Lake Erie waters, has been found.
Niagara Regional Police Service issued a released Sunday morning in relation to the search for a missing swimmer.
They say the body was found around 10 a.m. near the north shore in Halloway Bay.
Emergency services were first called to the area of Sherkston Shores in Port Colborne around 1:30 p.m. Thursday for reports of a possible drowning.
The man has been identified to CTV News Kitchener as Douglas Gómez Jr.
His father, Douglas Gómez, confirmed his son had been found Sunday morning as well.
Gómez said he was at the lake with family celebrating his daughter's birthday. He had come the day before, as his friends have a trailer at a nearby campground that has become a location for all their children to play together.
Speaking to CTV News over the phone, Gómez said they had gone to the quarry in the morning and then the beach afterwards, which is where the water became rough due to a storm moving into the area.
Gómez said two boys wearing life jackets and a girl who was not were in the water. When the water got rough due to the storm, Gómez Jr. went in to help get them to safety.
"As he was bringing them into the beach, another person came in to take the boys, and then my son (Gómez Jr.) was going to go and try to rescue the other," Gómez said.
'THERE ARE TWO HEROES HERE'
The girl was pulled further out. Gómez said the girl's father was trying to keep her above the waves.
"[The man] was underwater, keeping his daughter above water," Gómez said.
A friend of Gómez Jr. named Katie tells CTV News they had been swimming for 20 minutes when conditions quickly worsened.
Katie, who was already in the water, recounts swimming out to the father and daughter who she heard screaming and struggling, while also hearing Gómez Jr. calling out for help as well.
She was forced to make a choice, and was able to get to the girl and her father. The three were then pulled back in by the others.
Elson Jaku was able to help with the rescue by swimming out to the three.
"One of the guys put their hands up and says we need help, so I put the phone down and look for a floating device," he said. "They grabbed the whole floatie and then I started pulling them.
"Then there was another guy, Jason, when I touched the ground I started pulling them more comfortably and then the guy grabbed my hand and we pulled them both out."
While Katie was able to get back to shore, Gomez did not resurface.
"She was trying to get back her strength in time to go in and help my son," Gómez said. "It was too late. He was tired by the time he brought the boys to safety, to where someone was able to just grab them.
"There are two heroes here."
Police said the man was taken to a local hospital for assessment.
Gómez said there were no lifeguards in the matter in minutes that this took place, only security. They went to get lifeguards from nearby, but returned too late.
Police said lifeguards tried to rescue the Gómez Jr. when he wasn't able to return to shore. However, they lost sight of him in the water.
Police said they believe Gómez Jr. has drowned.
Anyone who may have witnessed the incident is asked to contact police.
THE SEARCH GETS UNDERWAY
The Marine Unit brought a boat to the scene to help with the search on Thursday, but they had to suspend the search around 3:50 p.m. as weather conditions worsened.
This was when the family of Gómez Jr. rushed down to the Port Colborne area in hopes of their son being found.
Police returned to Lake Erie for a recovery mission on Friday, but Gómez said search conditions have been less than ideal.
"We watched them all day," said Eva Gómez, Douglas Gómez Jr.'s mother. "We were just sitting and watching and waiting, thinking about maybe they can find him."
A shoreline search from land, boats with sonar, and several dives were apart of the Friday search efforts, according to police.
They said the shoreline searches have continued into Saturday morning, but due to the weather, officers are not able to make any dives.
"I want to bring him home," Gómez said on Saturday. "I want to bring my boy home with us."
The family of Gómez Jr. was in the area on Saturday to assist in the search any way they could.
Gómez Jr. was 33 years old, his father said.
"He was always showing us what he was doing, especially when he was with his daughter, for us to be apart of the moment," he said.
"Their friends have confirmed to us what we already knew: our son was a great person with a big heart and what he did is who he was."
A GoFundMe page has been started by his sister Cassandra to help raise funds for a funeral.
"There’s been incredible support," she said. "People have helped with the funeral costs."
A vigil for Gómez Jr. is planned for Saturday at 8:30 p.m. at Sherkston Shores.
With reporting from CTV Kitchener's Zayn Jinah