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Cuero honors men for rescue (w/video)

By BY JESSICA PRIEST - JPRIEST@VICAD.COM
July 8, 2014 at 2:08 a.m.
Updated July 9, 2014 at 2:09 a.m.

Roy Cervantes was fishing nearby on the banks of Cuero Lake when he noticed a young woman in the water beneath the pier. Several friends who were with the girl yelled for help, and Cervantes sprang into action, diving into the 10-feet-deep lake to help the struggling victim. Cervantes was one of several people who responded to the incident May 29 and who were recently recognized by Mayor Sara Post Meyer at the June 24 City Council meeting.

CUERO - A Cuero firefighter and a resident reunited Monday at Cuero Lake to reflect on a daring rescue of a 17-year-old woman.

"It could have very well been a different story if you weren't here fishing that day," firefighter Cory Mekush said while shaking Roy Cervantes' hand.

"I've been out on car wrecks before where the public has lent a hand but not to this degree," Mekush said earlier. "He really put himself on the line to help."

The Cuero City Council recognized Mekush, Cervantes and Cuero Police Officer Dennis Torres on June 24 for their heroism.

Torres declined to be interviewed, and the woman who was rescued did not want her identity released, Cuero Police Chief Jay Lewis wrote via email.

The afternoon of May 29 was like any other day for Cervantes, who for five days a week, sits at a picnic table fishing for catfish and perch.

Cervantes, a 65-year-old Army veteran, and his friend, Lupe Sanchez, noticed a woman climb onto the railing of the pier and walk around.

They both knew from the signs posted nearby that no one was allowed to swim in the lake.

"Lupe said, 'Well, she's going to jump,' and I said, 'No, she isn't,' but sure enough, when I turned around, she was in the water," Cervantes said.

The woman's friend screamed for help and said the woman could not swim.

Cervantes ran to the pier when he saw she was struggling to stay afloat and dove into the water, despite his injuries from an oil-field accident in the 1980s that made it difficult to swim. He had broken several bones and had undergone back surgeries. Part of his leg is still numb.

"I remember thinking, 'I hope this water is deep enough that I don't hit bottom,'" Cervantes said about how the impact would hurt his back.

The woman who was struggling in the water was about 8 feet away from the pier. Cervantes tugged her back to the pier, and Lupe dialed 911.

Jarvis Williams, 35, his cousin, Dwight Price, and friend Wayne Mathis, meanwhile, drove to the pier from the seventh hole at the golf course to assist.

Williams dove in as well and eventually was in charge of keeping the woman's head above water as both men were struggling to hoist her back onto the pier.

"When I jumped into the water, she wasn't responsive, and then, I guess, in about 10 or 15 seconds, she started coughing up water and crying," Williams said Monday night.

On not being recognized by City Council for his efforts, too, Williams said, "I want my blessings from God, so it doesn't really matter."

Mekush and Torres, according to the Cuero residents, were the ones who finally were able to get the woman on solid ground.

Mekush was about a mile or two away when he overheard the call on the scanner. He initially thought someone was drowning at the nearby municipal pool.

He estimated that area of the lake is between 8 to 10 feet deep.

"He (Torres) actually had a jump on us because his cruiser is a lot faster than our engine," Mekush said.

Mekush has been a paid firefighter for three years. Before, he was a volunteer firefighter for various organizations and on Alcoa's fire brigade for eight years.

"I was just doing my job," he said.

Cervantes and Williams echoed him.

"Really, I didn't expect anything because I believe any person would have done the same," Cervantes said.

"It was just instinct. When you see somebody who needs you, no matter who they are, you help them," Williams said.

Cervantes couldn't sleep afterward because he thought of his grandchildren drowning. The day after the City Council meeting, he noticed a few children swimming in the lake and made them read his commendation from Mayor Sara Post Meyer.

"I could have been in the water for 20 to 25 minutes, but it seemed like it was three to four hours," he said.

None of the men know the name of the woman who was saved. Cervantes hopes to meet her one day.

"Life is a gift," Cervantes said.

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