Family of Oakland men who drowned saving nephew hope to send bodies to Guatemala

The family and friends of the three immigrant men who drowned while rescuing a nephew from the delta in Sacramento are hoping to send their bodies back to their native Guatemala.

Wendy Rivas of Oakland started a GoFundMe for her father Edwin "Guistillo" Rivas, 57, and his friends, Edwin Perez, 22, and Danilo Gutiérrez, 40. 

She is hoping to raise $15,000 for each man. 

In observance of Guatemalan culture, Rivas' family his hosting a nightly gathering at his Oakland home for nine days to honor him and his two friends.

"My dad is a hero and now I see how much the people love him," Rivas said of her father. She described him as a leader many immigrant communities of Oakland, his home of the last 36 years. Wendy said her father never refused anyone who asked him for help.

She struggles with what happened and considered her father a strong swimmer. She said he's pulled people out from the river to safety before. She said she's found some semblance of peace now that her father's body has been recovered.

All the men lived in Oakland, working jobs in construction. 

Friend William Ramos told KTVU that the men and other families vacationed together near Brannan Island every Fourth of July for camping and family fun. 

The trio had been fishing Sunday near the Three Mile Slough Bridge in Sacramento County, when they saw Rivas' 8-year-old nephew struggling in the water. 

They and two others jumped into the river and pulled the boy to safety, officials said. The boy had been wading into the water and got pulled away, and he wasn't wearing a life jacket. 

But only two men were able to get out of the water. 

Rivas, Perez and Gutiérrez never surfaced. 

Their bodies were recovered from the delta on Tuesday evening, according to the Rio Vista Fire Department. 

Their friend, Juan Cabrera, told KCRA3 all of them had tried to save the boy, but the strong winds and current were too much in the Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta system.

"Far too many lives have been lost in our waterways and in the lakes and rivers of Northern California over the past few weeks," the Rio Vista Fire Department said. "The currents of the Sacramento River and its tributaries are strong and unpredictable."

One of his former co-workers Kris Hoffman said Gutiérrez was a "beautiful spirit and fearless." The two worked construction jobs together and Gutiérrez was an excellent painter, Hoffman said. 

"Everything he did, he did with an eye and a finesse and a great work ethic," Hoffman said.

 She said it will be hard to work at the same site where he painted a vibrantly colored home and not think of him.

Friends and family referred to the trio as the ‘Three Amigos’. They enjoyed fishing trips, and both playing and watching soccer together. Each of the men leaves families behind.

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