‘Such a positive inspiration’
Friends, family recall father who died trying to save his son from drowning
NORWALK — Victor Garcia would call his mother often, for no particular reason, said his mother, Alejandrina Contreras.
“He was very loving,” the Norwalk woman said Wednesday, speaking through her daughter, Paola Garcia. “He would call me 10 times a day, just to check on me.”
Victor Garcia, 26, died on Labor Day while trying to save his 7-year-old-son, Lucas, from drowning at a private beach at Candlewood Shore Community Beach in New Milford.
The Garcias were with their 14-year-old cousin Amy Contreras and Garcia’s aunt Sylvia Contreras and uncle Jimmy Chanvhavac.
“My nephew and my cousin were swimming together and all of a sudden, they couldn’t feel the ground anymore,” said Paola Garcia, 24, of Norwalk. “My nephew started calling out my brother’s name and asking him to come in to help them.”
Garcia said her brother was standing at the side of the water, but then went in when he heard his son.
She said while her brother was a good swimmer, “I think he might have panicked seeing my nephew struggling,” she said.
Garcia’s aunt and uncle live in the community and had invited the family to swim at the lake. It was the Norwalk family’s first time there, Garcia said.
According to New Milford police, the children were brought safely to shore while another family member pulled Garcia from the water. Officers performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation until paramedics arrived. Garcia was rushed to New Milford Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, police said.
“He drowned trying to save his son,” Garcia said Wednesday, adding her nephew “can swim but he’s not really strong at it.”
Garcia said her nephew and cousin, who were released Tuesday from Danbury Hospital, are “resting.”
Other family members include Garcia’s wife Christina, and his sister, Victoria Contreras, 6.
Garcia said her brother was “a great father.”
“He was very outgoing. He liked to spend time with his family. They liked to play soccer, go to the beach and eat ice cream,” she said. “He would take my nephew hiking and take a lot of trips to Washington and Miami.”
The family has organized a fundraising campaign in Garcia’s name. Within several hours of posting, more than $500 had been raised.
Michael Maldonado, 25, Victor’s childhood friend, said Garcia “would always make you laugh and feel better if you were down or hurt if you needed anything and he could help you. His words where like gold to me because he never steered me in the wrong direction.”
For more than eight years, Garcia worked as a fence installer at Gannon Rustic Fence in New Canaan.
“He was very important here,” said Tom Gannon, who owns the business.
“He was a team player and always thought of others,” Gannon said, choking up. “He will be sorely missed.”
Gannon’s son, Steven, said he was Victor’s best friend. They met during freshman year at Norwalk High School and worked side by side at the fencing company.
“We worked every day together,” said Steven Gannon, 26. “Every morning, he would have a huge smile on his face. The customers loved him. He was such a positive inspiration.”
He added Garcia was known at all the other shops around the business. “He was always waving to them. Everyone knew him by his first name.”
“I’m just shocked,” he added.
Funeral arrangements are pending.