MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Crews in Miami Beach have located the body of a missing swimmer. Meanwhile, the family of the good Samaritan who, officials said, died trying to save the swimmer is opening up about their loss.
Miami Beach Ocean Rescue crews located the body of Kirk Munguia just after 9:30 a.m., Thursday, days after his 42nd birthday.
7SkyForce hovered over the scene as crews carried the body, covered by a yellow tarp, back to shore.
“I had my boat out there. We had the fire drone, and we spotted the body just about where it was last seen,” said Miami Beach Ocean Rescue Chief Vincent Canosa.
Hours later, Munguia’s colleagues shared their condolences on social media. He was a terminal operations agent at Miami International Airport.
Meanwhile, the family of good Samaritan Ariel Romero Velazquez described him as a selfless and devoted man.
“I’m glad he left us trying to save others. He was always willing to help others,” said his son, Ariel Romero Garcia, through a translator.
Officials said Romero Velazquez, 49, died while trying to save Munguia after he and his 11-year-old daughter were caught in a rip current.
“I want him to know he will never be forgotten. He left us doing something brave. Not everyone does what he did,” said Romero Garcia.
Police said they got the call just before 6 p.m., Wednesday, reporting several swimmers in distress near 54th Street and Collins Avenue.
“Fifty-fourth Street and the beach advising three people out in the water caught in the rip current,” said a 911 dispatcher.
An EMT visiting the beach with his family witnessed the recovery and the moments that led up to it.
“They were out on the sandbar yesterday, and you could see two of them starting to get in a little bit of trouble,” the witness said. “Me and another guy, he called 911, and they got here really quick.”
By that time, police said, a second good Samaritan, Howard Stover, had pulled the 11-year-old girl from the water.
Authorities said Romero Velazquez, a Hialeah resident, tried to save Munguia but ultimately needed to be rescued as well.
Romero Velazquez was pulled from the ocean, unresponsive, and was rushed to Mount Sinai where he was later pronounced dead.
“He went out to help. He saw two people in trouble, and he gave his life to help the others,” said Canosa.
Officials said the drowning took place right out of the view of lifeguards.
“Unfortunately, they were right in between two lifeguards, and they were out of sight, out of distance,” said Canosa.
The child is said to be OK.
“It’s just a sad ordeal,” said the visiting EMT. “Nothing but love for that family.”
In a statement to 7News, MIA Director and CEO Lester Sola wrote, “We are deeply saddened and heartbroken by the tragic loss of Kirk Munguia, who was a dearly loved member of the Miami-Dade Aviation Department family. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and with the family of Ariel Romero, who was also part of the Miami-Dade County family.”
Canosa advises beachgoers to pay attention to the warning flags. Red flags represent high rip currents and beachgoers are advised to not swim in the water.
Those who still decide to swim with red flags flying are advised to swim directly in front of lifeguards.
“Always swim near a lifeguard. That’s the golden rule,” said Canosa. “You won’t have that problem … it’s a lesson to be learned: swim near a lifeguard.”
Officials said they were called to dozens of rescues in the area on Wednesday.
Individuals can call Miami Beach Patrol Ocean Rescue at 305-673-7714 to find out what the water conditions are for the day and to find out which flags are up.
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