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El Campo drowning victim remembered as loving, funny

By ERICA RODRIGUEZ
May 17, 2010 at 12:17 a.m.


Funeral Services for Noel Gaona Jr.

Viewing

Noon Tuesday

Triska Funeral Home

612 Merchant St.

El Campo

Rosary

6 p.m. Tuesday

St. Robert's Catholic Church

512 Tegner St.

Burial

10 a.m. Wednesday

Procession begins at Triska Funeral Home

EL CAMPO - The body of a 22-year-old El Campo man was found at the bottom of Tres Palacios Creek on Sunday afternoon, following a weekend of searches.

Noel Gaona Jr. was reported missing about 1:45 p.m. Saturday after swimming with friends in the swollen creek near Alamo Street bridge, said Fire Chief Jimmy Nielsen. His body was found about 100 yards from the area between the Alamo Street Bridge and South Mechanic Street, Nielsen said.

Gaona was pronounced dead by Justice of the Peace Jeanette Krenek. The cause of death was ruled an accidental drowning.

Law enforcement and residents searched since Saturday for the man.

Crews with the El Campo Police Department, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Lower-Colorado River Authority and the Wharton and El Campo fire departments were involved with the search.

Nielsen said high river levels made the search more difficult.

Gaona, a ranch hand and El Campo High School graduate, was described as loving the outdoors and humorous.

"He always made people laugh," said Gaona's father, Noel Gaona Sr.

Gaona struggled to describe his son.

"I don't have the words to put it together to describe my son," he said. "He was just my son."

Gaona thanked Nielsen and the community for their support.

"Everybody that helped with the rescue I can't thank them enough for the love and support that they showed for me and my family," he said. "I can't put into words, but thank you for bringing my son back to me."

Funeral arrangements are pending with Triska Funeral Home.

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