This week’s record heat has sent plenty of people to the shores of the region’s rivers to cool off.
Those excursions could have a price if the people wading in don’t take necessary safety precautions, like wearing a life jacket.
As a result, Columbia Basin Dive Rescue has had an unusually high number of calls: seven in the last 13 days, said Mike McDowell, dive rescue’s public information officer.
“We will see a spike in calls when it first gets hot out with everyone cooling off in the river, but not like what have had in the past two weeks,” he wrote in an email to the Herald.
The agency averages 30 calls each year.
One of those calls was for the recovery of Antonio Hermosillo Jr., 21, of Prosser.
The Prosser High School graduate died Tuesday night after he was caught in an undertow in the Yakima River while fishing with friends.
The mother of Hermosillo’s 1-year-old son, Isabel De La Cruz, talked to her boyfriend about 30 minutes before he died.
“I called him at 8:20 and he answered me, and I asked him where he was at, and he said he was fishing, and he said he was done already and he was going to come home,” she said. “And I said, ‘OK, I’ll be waiting for you at home.’ ”
The next call she received was from Hermosillo’s sister, who said there had been an accident, but at that time was unable to provide more details.
De La Cruz said Hermosillo was fishing with her brother and four friends. She said the group successfully walked to a small island toward the center of the river where they fished.
Hermosillo decided to take a swim before he returned home, De La Cruz said. He was working construction on the new Davis High School in Yakima and was wearing his steel-toe boots and heavy construction clothing when he went into the water, she said.
“He didn’t realize there was a undertow and it pulled him under,” she said. “There was nothing nobody could do.”
Hermosillo was not a strong swimmer, De La Cruz said, having learned to swim only a year before.
For De La Cruz, the implication is clear — every swimmer should take precautions when out on the water.
“No matter if you’re a great swimmer or you’re so confident, I think you should always wear a life jacket, no matter what, (and) not be wearing heavy clothes and do something crazy like that,” she said.
De La Cruz and Hermosillo met when she was a junior at Kiona-Benton City High School and he was a senior at Prosser. They had been ever since.
Hermosillo died a day short of the one-year anniversary of the purchase of their home, De La Cruz said. The couple bought the house in Prosser last June to make a home for their son, Anthony “Duante” Hermosillo.
“He was a great person,” De La Cruz said of her boyfriend. “He was a great father to our son. He would have done anything to make me happy.”
There will be no autopsy on Hermosillo, said Benton County sheriff’s Sgt. Kevin McCary. A toxicology screen has been ordered, but results could take as long as two to three months, he said.
De La Cruz’s emphasis on the importance of life vests is echoed by dive rescue.
McDowell said the organization has never had to respond to a drowning in which the swimmer wore a life vest.
“If (Hermosillo) had been wearing a life vest, he’d still be alive today, I truly believe that,” McDowell said.
Water-related injuries and deaths increase each summer as temperatures rise and more people go to the river to cool down, McDowell said.
In addition to the recovery of Hermosillo’s body, this week dive rescue also recovered the body of 18-year-old Dylan Jones of Irrigon from the Columbia River.
Jones, a senior at Irrigon High School, drowned near the Irrigon Marina on Sunday while swimming with friends. Like Hermosillo, Jones was thought to have been caught in an undertow.
On Thursday, dive rescue led a rescue of two teens stranded in the Yakima River beneath the Highway 240 overpass in Richland.
The swimmers attempted to cross the river, but one became sick midway, preventing the duo from reaching the other side. Both were able to make it to a beam below the overpass where they waited for assistance.
Two GoFundMe campaigns have been started by Hermosillo and De La Cruz’s extended families. One will go toward burial costs, the other to cover expenses for Hermosillo’s funeral, which will be at 10 a.m. June 16 at Sacred Heart Church in Prosser.
Any remaining money raised will go to De La Cruz and her son for their day-to-day expenses.