Newlywed wife, friends remember man who drowned while saving son
OGDEN — There were several people milling in and around Jose Bahena's Ogden home Tuesday, looking tired and stunned.
"He was one of my first friends — he was one of my best friends," Jose Mejia said of Bahena, wiping tears from his eyes. "He was very sensitive, very loving and caring with his family."
The 42-year-old man had been married just eight days when he drowned Monday at Pineview Reservoir after saving his son from the same fate.
His widow, Sylvia Mejia, said "it was only a second" from the time she was swimming to the moment she realized her husband was in trouble.
“I said, 'What happened?'" Sylvia Mejia said in Spanish Monday, recalling a conversation she had with one of Bahena's sons. "‘He went down in the water and never (came up).’ But I said to him, 'What happened?' He said nothing. I don’t know — I don’t know."
She started to cry Monday as she recalled what happened next.
“Then I went, and he was in the water, and he never got out," she said. "He never got out.”
Bahena loved to fish, but didn't know how to swim, Jose Mejia said. Just last week, he said he asked Bahena why he didn't learn, in case he ever needed the skill to help his family.
"We didn't know it would happen this week," Jose Mejia said.
Officials said Bahena went into the water around 8:15 p.m. in an attempt to help his 11-year-old son, who was apparently drowning. It is believed the man was able to get his son closer to shallow water while the boy's brother extended a life preserver to the boy.
The boy made it safely to shore, but Bahena went under the water and never resurfaced. Weber County Sheriff's Sgt. Brandon Toll, director of search and rescue, said the response was a "full-blown call out" involving boats, divers and portable lights.
Divers entered the water at 9:37 p.m., Toll said. By 9:39, Bahena's body was located in water 5 feet deep.
The investigation into the man's death is ongoing, but Toll said it's possible that a clothing issue factored into the drowning.
Bahena was originally from Mexico and his new wife said the couple spent just over two years together. Now, she said she is struggling to carry on.
“I feel like I’m not myself," she said through her tears. "I feel so bad because yesterday it had been eight days since we had been married.”
She described her husband as a good father to his four children who worked hard to provide for his family. She said Bahena's children were "fine" and in the care of their mother, but she was not doing as well.
"I feel that nothing gives me strength, nothing gives me a desire to continue,” she said.
Bahena loved music, playing the guitar and writing stories about his love for Utah and the United States, Jose Mejia said. He was also quick to help others and take care of those he loved.
The night Bahena and Sylvia Mejia were married, their family and friends celebrated with them until 3 a.m.
"The reason he was up until 3 o'clock in the morning, was because he was so happy," Jose Mejia said. "This is a big loss. People like him are very important. He left all of his kids and I don't know what's going to happen now. This is a new life for them."
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