SACRAMENTO -- A family is still fighting back tears nearly one month after their husband and father disappeared in the South Yuba River.
“It happened so fast. I felt, like, helpless,” said Alex Alvarez’s wife, Anekka. “I’m traumatized by everything. I still can’t believe it's ... he’s gone.”
Thirty-four-year-old Alex Alvarez died trying to rescue his 12-year-old daughter, Amelie, from the cold, rushing water.
“I was just yelling, I was so scared,” Amelie Alvarez told FOX40. “I was yelling for people to go and get my dad because I was terrified.”
Amelie recalls holding onto a rock July 13 as her father tried to swim over and save her from drowning. She made it out safely but her father’s body was found eight days later.
The 12-year-old said she misses her dad every day.
“It was scary and it was sad and I kind of do blame myself for it,” she said.
Alex and Anekka married in 2011. Together they were raising their three children. She said he was the backbone of their family.
“He just was just big-hearted and cared a lot about everybody,” Anekka Alvarez said. “I’m absolutely heartbroken. I mean, I’ve known him since junior high.”
And the Alvarezes are not the only ones in mourning.
“I couldn’t breathe for a while. I couldn’t talk. One of my closest friends is gone,” said Alex’s friend and coworker Cedrick Golden.
Alex worked as the head chef at Harlow’s, a popular restaurant and nightclub in downtown Sacramento.
Coworkers told FOX40 he made a lasting impact on everyone he knew.
“Alex was one of those just rare people. You only get one of these in your lifetime,” Golden said. “He made sure everyone was fed. He was more of like a mentor to everybody.”
Although loved ones wish they could bring Alex back, they said he will always be remembered as a loving friend, husband and father who died a hero.
“I want him to be remembered as, you know like, a really, really big person, a big hero, someone who actually was able to save the one that they loved,” Amelie Alvarez said.
If you'd like to help the family during this difficult time, friends set up a GoFundMe page for Alex's wife and children.