Five people risked their lives when they jumped into the frigid, rushing water of the Kaweah River Saturday.
Victor Mozqueta, however, was the first to jump in to save a 5-year-old boy who had fallen in.
The 22-year-old Hart High School graduate who loved soccer, loved music and loved life, jumped into the river at Sequoia National Park to save the boy from drowning, knowing that he himself could not swim.
Mozqueta was the first to reach him, struggling to return to the shore with the little boy on his back and, when he was close enough, throw the boy — named Vincent — to the shore, close enough for him to be pulled to safety.
The rescue then became a frantic combined effort to save Mozqueta.
Vincent’s parents — Isias and Anna — and three fishermen, one of them a U.S. Marine, all worked together to save the man who saved the boy.
But the fierce undercurrent of the river pulled Mozqueta from all of them. He drowned.
“I think of him now and I see a man who was brave, heroic, unselfish and kind,” said Ivan Gonzalez, Mozqueta’s brother in law.
“He would have jumped in if it was anyone’s kid,” he said. “That’s the way he was. He didn’t wait to be asked, he would just help. He would just do it.”
Members of the Gonzalez and Mozqueta families work at the same business, which has since shut its doors temporarily in light of Mozqueta’s death.
A vigil was held at the family’s home in Newhall Monday night. Between 100 and 250 people turned up, Gonzalez said.
“There were strangers there who just read about Victor on GoFundMe, people from Gardena and Orange County,” Gonzalez said, referring to the web page set up to raise money online for the Mozqueta family.
Asked about the vigil, he said: “They were crying, hugging. People came with flowers and candles.”
The three fishermen who jumped into the river and who scrambled along the banks to reach Mozqueta contacted the Newhall families Monday for the first time since the ordeal, Gonzalez said.
“The water was dragging Victor to the center,” he said, recalling the reactions of the three fishermen who were nearby that day.
Gonzalez’s brother, Isias, Vincent’s father, jumped into the river. So did Isias’ wife, Anna, Vincent’s mother. The three fishermen did the same when they saw the struggle.
“It was a chain of three people,” Gonzalez said of his brother, Anna and Mozqueta.
“Then the three fishermen jumped in. One of the guys threw a bag for Victor to grab but he (Victor) kept going down.
“They were trying to reach him but it was hard to get to him,” Gonzalez said.
They watched Mozqueta disappear under the water.
On shore, little Vincent was bloody and injured as CPR was being performed, but he was alive because of Mozqueta’s efforts.
Vincent, age 5, was released from the hospital Monday.
Gonzalez said the family wanted Victor Mozqueta’s actions described on the GoFundMe page so that little Vincent, when he is older, will know what happened that day.
Victor Mozqueta was all ready for the World Cup, Gonzalez said, noting he was ready for a whole life ahead of him.
Despite working hard to pay for the car he loved, according to Gonzalez, Mozqueta attended College of the Canyons for a while. Music, however, was his true passion.
“He loved music. He was playing and singing all the time,” Gonzalez said.
Mozqueta is to buried Monday in a small private service for his family at Eternal Valley Memorial Park Mortuary.
There will be a reception for the public afterward, however.
Ivan Gonzalez is anticipating many people will attend.