MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A 17-year-old who risked his life to save a mother and her son from drowning, died Wednesday afternoon after he was taken off life support.
A public information officer from Jackson Memorial Hospital confirmed the sad news to CBS4.
On Monday afternoon, Elvia Venegas says she and her 9-year-old son were swimming in Virginia Key when they started to be pulled under by a strong top current.
Cristian Burgos rushed into the water to help.
“If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be alive right now,” says Venegas. She spoke to CBS4 in Spanish but her responses have been translated to English.
“I am just eternally grateful at this moment. That’s all I can say right now.”
After she and her son made it out safely, Burgos got caught in the rough surf and had to be rescued.
Meredith Diaz witnessed when first responders pulled him out and described it as a “traumatic experience.”
“They came up to the shore and did CPR,” she says. “My cousin and I called 911 and the ambulance came here to save him.”
He was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Family members said Burgos remained in a coma through Wednesday.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Burgos family released the following statement:
“Our little hero has passed away less than 10 minutes ago. We want to thank you all who have been praying for his supernatural recovery. Thank you all who have been donating to help his mother, from the bottom of our hearts. We ask you to keep us the family, especially his mother in your prayers. God bless you all ❤️”
Miami-Dade Schools Supt. Alberto Carvalho is calling his actions “heroic and inspirational.” “This was a selfless act of heroism and he should be recognized in our community and we should join in prayers for this remarkable young man. I had a chance to pray at the hospital with both the mother of the boy who is fighting for his life as well as the mother and the 9-year-old boy who were saved.”
His mother, Maria Del Carmen Avenado, tells CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “He’s the best son. He’s the most beautiful person I have had. He is a hero. I am happy and I am sad because I wish this had not happened to him.”
His cousin Nelly Alvarado said, “I am honestly very proud of him. It was a selfless act. He didn’t think twice to go and help people. I know it was just instincts just like he has done for everyone his whole life helping other people. He would be happy to know that he saved two people and he will be happy again.”
Another cousin, Katherine Zamora, said, “I feel really proud of him and while some might be critical of him risking his own life like this, I know I would have done the same thing. I always knew he would do stuff like that. He always looked out for other people.”
“He was heroic,” says Burgos’ friend Jasmine Rodriguez. “I’m really proud of him. I’m sad he got hurt, but I’m happy he did what he did because I know the type of person he is.”
Rodriguez said, “I feel really inspired by him and he has inspired other people as well.”
Students showed on Facebook a large poster that they had signed in support of Burgos and CBS4 was at the hospital as they went inside with it.
Eleventh grader Emmanuel Acevedo said, “I admire him very much. He showed us how inspiring this was with his risking his own life and he was rushed to the hospital. He is a warrior.”
“He saved two lives and at a very young age to make that decision it takes a lot of courage,” said Claudia Escobar.
It was no surprise that several of Burgos’ teachers visited Jackson Memorial Hospital to console and remember.
“He was the type of student who helped out other students. Bilingual, helping with translations. A role model for the ninth graders,” said Veronique Toussaint.
And for his teachers, Burgos will not be forgotten, especially by fellow students.
“He leave a legacy to follow his footsteps. He was the one whenever there was a need he was there and we hope to follow his legacy moving forward,” said Nelson Fernandez.
Avendano said that while she knows her son is a hero “that doesn’t take away my pain.”
“The pain is so deep. My boy, every time I see something that reminds me of him, it destroys me,” she said.
Avendano is now alone after Burgos’ father was deported to Nicaragua.
“My boy is who I loved the most. I need you to support me. I need someone at my side. I feel so bad. I feel destroyed,” she said.
Burgos family has set up a GoFundMe account to help with his medical bills.