SAN FRANCISCO - A family is in mourning after a San Francisco man died while saving his 5-year-old girl after a kayak accident. Now, his other daughter, who witnessed the whole tragedy, is speaking out about her dad's heroism.
Roni Avila Alvarado, a 40-year-old construction worker from Guatemala, died on Sunday as he saved his 5-year-old daughter's life after their kayak overturned off Brannan Island State Park near Antioch. Investigators say neither was wearing a life jacket.
The family was having a picnic at the park when Alvarado took the 5-year-old on a kayak ride. His other daughter, 11-year-old Maria, watched it all happen from the shore.
"There were these boats going really fast, and they started to make waves," she said. "And when one of the waves hit the side of the kayak, it flipped over and they fell. My dad quickly got my sister and held her up. He really tried to get her safe first, and he went like that, and his head was in the water and he couldn't breathe. But he made sure she was safe."
It happened in the Delta near 3 Mile Slough. The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department said the dad handed the girl off to a jet skier who safely brought her to shore uninjured.
Meanwhile, Alvarado submerged and never resurfaced.
For hours on Sunday afternoon and evening, helicopters and boats equipped with side scan sonar searched the waterway. At 11 p.m., a dive team recovered his body.
The sheriff's department says it's the third drowning in the last two months in which the victim was not wearing a life vest.
"It makes me cry," witness Jentry Jasperson said. "It just, it breaks my heart. I couldn't imagine having a child out there without a vest. It's just scary, it scares me."