When a rescue team of divers plunged into the murky waters of the Iowa River Tuesday morning, they were searching for something nobody ever hopes to find.
Police recovered the body of 10-year-old Andres Favela just after 10 a.m., bringing a tragic halt to a search that began Monday night.
Favela ended up in the river while playing with some friends and promptly went under, said Capt. Mike Hanken of the Marshalltown Police Department.
The audio of the 911 call first reporting a child missing in the Iowa River
Hanken said Favela and two friends jumped into the river's south end near the retaining wall. The other two boys landed in shallow water while Favela fell into a deep spot and suddenly became submerged.
He surfaced just long enough to call for help, Hanken said.
One of the boys, both of whom are around the same age as Favela, made his way over and tried to prevent Favela from drowning, but the current swept him down river where he got hung up on some fencing.
T-R PHOTO BY LUKE STALZER
Family and friends watch as divers with the Story County Sheriff’s Office search for the 10-year-old Marshalltown boy who went missing Monday evening near the Center Street Dam on the Iowa River. Crews searched the river Tuesday morning and found the boy’s body shortly after 10 a.m. near the dam.
The third boy flagged down a motorist who came to the first boy's aid, but was unable to find Favela.
"They did everything they could to try and help," Hanken said. "Unfortunately, circumstances were against them."
A selfless act
Dave Frazier, the motorist, lives at a camp near the river. He said when the boy rushed up to him screaming "my friend is drowning," his instincts kicked in.
He dove into the water and swam to the boy caught on the fence. He said the boy couldn't have held on much longer.
"His little fingers were just white," he said.
Frazier said he was just returning to his camp with his son-in-law, Nick Weatherly, when the boy approached him, screaming franticly. He and Weatherly backed up their Blazer to the shore, and Frazier went in after the boy, pulled him to shore and handed him off to Weatherly.
He said he never saw Favela.
"If he had come up once, I would have went down after him," he said.
After the first boy told Frazier about Favela, he spent the next 20 minutes diving in search of him, but the mucky waters obscured his vision.
His sister, Debra Weuve, called him a hero.
"You couldn't have held him back if you tried," she said.
Garry Brandenburg, former director of Marshall County Conservation Board, was part of several volunteer teams on the water searching for Favela Tuesday morning.
"Any body of water can be dangerous - or safe and fun," he said. "Water in a lake, river or whatever is an unforgiving thing ... the river is not usually a good place to be swimming."
He said the water near the dam where divers found the body is between 10 and 11 feet deep. During peak flood times, like in 2008, the water is just under 22 feet deep.
Brandenburg estimated the current speed between 400 and 500 cubic feet per second. Again, in 2008, that speed was between 16,000 and 17,000 cubic feet per second.
So, relatively speaking the river is fairly calm, he said.
"If you get in the wrong environment, you can get in trouble really quick," he said. "It doesn't look threatening, but you have to respect water because it can bite you, and that's what happened yesterday, unfortunately."
Not the first
The discovery of the Favela's body came less than 24 hours after another boy, 17-year-old Kevin Kong, drown in Raccoon River Park's lake in West Des Moines.
Favela is the third person since 2008 to drown in the Iowa River in Marshalltown, one in 2008 when flood levels were at their peak and another in 2010.
Marshall and Story Counties Emergency Rescue Teams, Story County Sheriff's Office, K-9 Authority Inc., Star 1 Search and Rescue, Carroll County Underwater Team, Marshalltown Fire Department, Mercy Hospital Air Wing and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources assisted the MPD with the search and recovery.
The MPD will continue to investigate the incident.
Contact David Alexander at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org