The heartbreaking final image of a father fishing in the Mississippi River with his son only moments before he drowned trying to save him have been released. Twenty-five-year-old Malik Williams was out fishing with his 6-year old son Jaden last Tuesday when the tragic incident took place. The photo was taken by a 16-year-old amateur photographer named Riley Gomez. According to Riley, she was out taking pictures and the picturesque scene of Malik and Jaden fishing caught her eye. She took the photo just moments before the tragedy struck.
“I was on the dock taking pictures of the sunset and I saw them.”
“When I was going home, I turned around to see the sunset one last time and the little boy wasn’t on the dock anymore. Then I saw his father jump in.”
Jaden accidentally fell into the water and Malik instinctively jumped in to save him, despite not knowing how to swim himself. Malik’s fiancée and his 2-year-old son were also at the scene, and they began screaming for help, Inside Edition reports. Gomez recalled what happened.
“She was yelling, ‘Help me, help me! They can’t swim! They can’t swim!'”
Riley called 911. The authorities received a call at around 8:32 pm on Tuesday about an emergency at Ben Butterworth Parkway in the 5400 block of River Drive. A passerby named Von Thang, who happened to be driving by the area at the time, heard the screams from the river bank. When he saw what was happening he jumped into the river to try and rescue the father and son. He was able to rescue Jaden, but he was unable to save Malik as he had been drifted too far away by the strong current of the river. The hero-dad tragically lost his life trying to save his son.
Riley says that she regrets not being able to do more to help save Malik.
“I tried everything… I keep having dreams that I actually did save [Williams]. It still seems unreal to me.”
Regarding the final picture of the father and son that she took, Riley said the following.
“He seemed like an amazing father — he knew he couldn’t swim and he sacrificed his life to save his child. He’ll always be remembered as a hero. Knowing that there was one last thing I was able to give to that family, I’m really glad I did take that picture.”
Malik’s body was found by local authorities on Friday. Detective Scott Williams announced that his body had been found at 10 a.m. Friday. Malik’s body was found in the area he was last seen by a Rock Island Arsenal Fire Department rescue boat.
Bell Williams, Malik’s older brother, was interviewed following the incident where he painted a more clearer picture of his brother’s character. The 29-year old said that although he had no idea that his brother could not swim, he was not surprised to learn that he had nevertheless jumped in the river to try and save his son because that was exactly the kind of man he was.
“No matter what it took, he was going to save him, even if it took his last breath, which it seemed like it did.”
After Malik’s body was found on Friday, the Rock Island County Coroner took possession of the body. Coroner Brian Gustafson said that he was grateful for Malik’s family and friends that they would now be able to find closure.
“This river doesn’t always return its dead. Thankful today that she did.”
A GoFundMe Page has been set up to help Malik’s family. The page has already raised $9,700 of its $11,000 goal in two days.
[Featured Image by Yurisyan/Shutterstock]