Missing Student, Xavier Martinez Found by Dedicated Diver

There may be times in our life when we are faced with an unimaginable situation, and we call out for help or pray for a miracle. When Amanda Jurado’s son, Xavier Martinez, a 15-year-old Stagg High School Student, went missing in the Calaveras River she desperately appealed to the community for help. On March 13th, Xavier and his friend, who were involved in a fight, fled the campus and jumped into the nearby river. Xavier’s friend resurfaced from the river, but tragically, Xavier did not.

Although many volunteers and agencies responded to the search, including the San Joaquin Sheriff’s Department’s Boating Unit who used robotic submersibles, sonar devices, drones, and K-9’s, none of them were able to find Xavier. The murky and cluttered Calaveras River can prove extremely difficult to navigate and divers can be intimidated by the danger of the debris filled water. However, every challenge lends an opportunity for the right person to conquer it. The person who was right for this challenge was Juan Heredia. Juan is a professional scuba diver and instructor who is trained in search and rescue and has over 20 years of experience. Juan, who is originally from Argentina, is quite accustomed to navigating through similar situations, “In Argentina, I have been in other circumstances much like this one where the waters were very cloudy. It’s very dangerous because you can’t see your instruments and can’t be sure how much air is left in your tank.” Since March 13th, Juan had been monitoring the efforts to find Xavier and when the sheriff’s office decided to scale back after five days, he approached Amanda to ask her permission to find her son. All of Juan’s family was concerned for Amanda, including his mother-in-law, Teresa who prayed to the Virgin Guadalupe for a miracle to find Xavier. Juan’s wife, Mercedes also shared that her family along with many other Latinos believed in praying to Lady of Guadalupe for miracles. “When my dad was diagnosed with cancer and given no hope, my mom prayed for a miracle and that was 17 years ago, and my father is still going strong.” One of the other reasons that Juan and Mercedes believe there is a ‘huge connection’ between their two families is because less than a year ago, Mercedes also tragically lost her 20-year-old son, Bryan, in a car accident just like Amanda lost Xavier. And because of the loss of her son, Mercedes felt that she could comfort Amanda having gone through a similar tragedy. On Tuesday, March 19th, Juan arrived at the river, with his daughter, Camila. Camila was also a skilled diver and was there to assist her father if he needed help in finding Xavier and to notify the proper authorities once he had been found. As Juan prepared to go into the river, Xavier’s Mom arrived to thank him for his help and told him, “You are an Angel for helping us.” Juan went on to say, “I was on a mission to bring peace to Xavier’s Mom. I made her two promises that one, I am 100 % sure that I am going to find your son, or two, I am going to be 100% sure that your son is not here.” True to his word, within thirty minutes of going into the river he found Xavier. “First, I saw his tennis shoes. Then, I looked up and could see him standing straight up with his arms lifted and his head looking up. The sun was shining on his face, and it looked like he was praying to his family! I tied my floating rope to him and went back up to tell my daughter to call 911!” The designated authorities arrived and brought Xavier out of the river. On March 19th, six days after Xavier went missing, Juan was able to give Amanda peace and comfort by finding her son. As a direct result of this situation and seeing the tremendous need for trained divers, Mercedes and Juan have decided to start a nonprofit organization called Aqua Angels. Aqua Angels’ mission will be to provide trained divers who can assist the Police, Fire and Sheriff Departments when they need a professional diver for search and rescue. They do not plan to charge anyone for their services. It does your heart good to know that we live in a world where even though we may face many challenges in these trying times, there are still caring people like Juan and Mercedes with open hearts who give of themselves to make a difference in the lives of others.

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