11-year-old girl describes Bay Area dad's heroism after tragic kayak accident

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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. (KGO-TV)

Authorities have identified Roni Avila Alvarado as the man who died on Sunday as he saved his 5-year-old daughter's life when their kayak overturned off Brannan Island State Park near Antioch. Investigators say neither was wearing a life jacket.

The whole family was having a picnic at the park when the dad took the 5-year-old on a kayak ride. His other daughter, 11-year-old Maria, watched it all happen from the shore and she wanted to share her dad's heroism.

"There were these boats going really fast and they started to make waves and when one of the waves hit the side of the kayak, it flipped over and they fell," said Maria. "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, the dad submerged and never resurfaced.

For hours on Sunday afternoon and evening, helicopters and boats equipped with side scan sonar searched the waterway. At 11:00 p.m., a dive team recovered the body of the 40-year-old construction worker from Guatemala, who leaves behind a wife and two daughters.

RELATED: SF man drowns while saving daughter from kayak accident
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," said witness Jentry Jasperson. "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."

The family in San Francisco has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to bury the dad in the Bay Area. Click here if you'd like to help.

California Life Jacket Law:

Under California law, every child under 13 years of age on a moving recreational vessel of any length must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket in serviceable condition and of a type and size appropriate for the conditions and the activity. The law does not apply to children under 13 years of age who are:

  • On a sailboat and are constrained by a harness tethered to the sailboat
  • In an enclosed cabin
  • On a vessel engaged in an emergency rescue situation

Click here for full information about California's life jacket law.

Related Topics:
newsdrowningswimmingchild rescuechild rescuedcoast guardboat accidentboating safetyboatingboatsRio VistaSan Francisco
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