A Missouri teenager died last month after having saved his 4-year-old brother from drowning.
Alex Harris, 18, drowned in the Missouri River on July 23 after having saved his brother, Asher, who had gotten caught in a current and was struggling to stay afloat, according to NBC’s “TODAY” show and a report from the Missouri State Highway Patrol. He was pronounced dead the next day.
The brothers’ father, Tyson Harris, told “TODAY” that he and his wife heard Harris yelling for help in the fast-moving waters.
But by the time Harris’ mother, Nikki, reached him, it was too late.
“Alex held Asher up until his mom got there, and then he went down,” Tyson Harris told “TODAY.”
Nikki Harris told “TODAY”: “I watched his hands let go, and he sank. I knew his exhaustion he was feeling. I tried so hard to get to him faster.”
Alex’s father credited him with saving his younger son’s life in a heartfelt tribute on Facebook.
“I love you son and I wish every second I could take your place,” Harris wrote. “You are a hero son.”
Alex Harris graduated from high school this year and had been working for the family’s outfitter business, according to “TODAY.” His high school held a candlelight vigil in his honor the day after he drowned.
Head football coach Josh Petersen, who coached Harris, told KQTV-TV that the circumstances of Harris’ death reflected his life.
“That was Alex,” Petersen told the station. “Just someone that would help someone else out.
“The widespread impact of what Alex did, who Alex was, even though he’s gone, he won’t be forgotten,” Petersen said. “I think that’s just a tremendous attribute to him.”
Alex and Asher were close despite their age difference, “TODAY” reported. A few days before the drowning, the family’s security camera captured Alex consoling Asher after he fell off his bike, according to “TODAY.”
There was also a special bond between father and eldest son.
“We’d drive to work together every morning — a 15-minute drive — and I really looked forward to it,” Harris told “TODAY.” “We’d listen to music and talk about stuff. Every morning I expect him to be here. I’ll sit around and wait a little bit like maybe he’s coming.”
A representative for the Highway Patrol told “TODAY” that swimmers should make sure to wear personal flotation devices to reduce the odds of drowning.
“If you get caught in a current, your energy depletes very rapidly, even if you’re an experienced swimmer,” Sgt. Shane Hux said. “When our state troopers patrol the river, they always wear a life jacket.”