A Missouri teenager is being hailed as a hero after he saved his four-year-old brother from drowning and died in the process. 18-year-old Alex Harris and his little brother Asher were swimming in the Missouri River when Asher was hit by a strong current, the children's father, Tyson Harris, described the drama to the US broadcaster NBC's "Today Show". "I heard Alex screaming for help and my wife and I ran. The water was moving so fast. I had never seen anything like it." But by the time his wife, Nikki Harris, reached the boys, it was already too late.
"Alex held Asher down until his mother arrived and then he went under," Tyson Harris said. And Nikki Harris reported: "I saw his hands let go and he sank. I realized how exhausted he was. I was trying so hard to get to him faster."
The incident happened on July 23. A day later, Alex's body was discovered in the water and recovered.
"My son Alex died yesterday saving his little brother from drowning," Tyson Harris wrote on his Facebook page on July 24, alongside a photo of Alex in a black tuxedo next to a pickup truck. "If he hadn't kept him upstairs until his mother arrived, they would both be dead now. I love you son and wish every second I could take your place. You are a hero son."
Asher understood that Alex saved his life and he told people his brother was in heaven with Jesus, the father said. "But he still hasn't realized that Alex won't be coming back."
Tyson Harris says he's also struggling to accept his son's death. "Every morning we drove to work together — a 15-minute drive that I really looked forward to. We listened to music and talked about all sorts of things," the father said. "Every morning I expect him to be here. I sit around and wait a bit as if he might come.
Alex Harris graduated from high school that year and worked for his family's hunting tour business, according to NBC. His former school held a vigil in his honor after his death.
After the death, the Missouri State Highway Patrol emphasized the importance of wearing flotation devices when on or in a river or unpredictable body of water. "If you get caught in a current, even if you're an experienced swimmer, your energy drains very quickly," Sergeant Shane Hux told The Today Show. "When our police officers patrol the river, they always wear life jackets."
Sources: "Today Show", Tyson Harris on Facebook