Teenager loses a friend, saves a life and learns a lot about himself

Published: Monday, July 29 2013 4:55 p.m. MDT

Angel Fernandez talks Monday, July 22, 2013, about being honored by West Jordan City with a "lifesaving award" for saving a 4-year-old from drowning.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Angel Fernandez is only 15 years old, but in less than a year's time he has been touched firsthand by tragedy and ecstasy, experiences that are shaping the direction of his life.

Angel's best friend was killed in October while walking to school.

Edwin Cardoso, 14, was crossing 600 North on his way to West High when he was struck by a utility truck. Angel, 15, said he saw Edwin that morning and had walked with him briefly before being picked up. He offered Edwin a ride, too, but his friend preferred to walk.

"He walked everywhere," Angel said. "It wasn't just school. If you asked him for a ride he would say 'No' and would just walk. … He loved doing it."

Angel was in class when he was called to the school counselor's office three or four hours later and was asked if he had heard what happened. He had no idea what they were talking about.

Then they told him.

"The first thing that went through my head was, 'What type of person would not see a kid walking across the street?' So when I went through in my mind I kept asking, 'What hit him? Was it someone who was texting and driving? Was it a drunk driver?' No. It was just a 19-year-old kid."

He first went to see Edwin's mother, then to the place where his friend was hit.

"It was extremely hard for me," he said. "It was hard because I felt like I could have done something to stop it. I thought through it plenty of times. I still think through it. I think, 'What if he had said yes (to the ride)?' He would still be here."

Edwin was pretty quiet, but was also energetic and always knew what to say and do in a situation. Angel still misses his "randomness" and the way he could always make him laugh with a sporadic text.

He said he came to grips with Edwin's death. But not long after, he started wondering when something good would happen to him after such a devastating loss.

A day to swim

On June 19, Angel went to swim at the Willow Cove Apartments, 9300 S. Redwood Road, at the invitation of his aunt, who lives at the complex. A woman with a young son let him into the pool area. Later, Angel and the son were both in the pool, both swatting at the same pesky bee.

Angel was swimming in the deep end of the pool when he saw an empty flotation device. It looked familiar and he was trying to remember which child he had seen using it when a girl pointed out something on the bottom of the pool.

He immediately dove down, picked the boy up and brought him to the surface. He said several years as a Boy Scout helped him know what to do.

"I've been trained for this," Angel said, adding that he also tried to help the mother perform CPR. "(The boy) was small. He wasn't breathing, he was stiff and he was actually extremely heavy.

"At first I was like, 'I just pulled a kid out of the water. I hope he's breathing.' And then once I laid him down, I stared at him for a little bit and noticed he wasn't breathing and then it finally came to me that he was really cold and heavy, so I was really scared."

He said that by the time firefighters and paramedics arrived, the boy was breathing again. Angel said he had repeatedly told the boy's mother that it would be OK. The woman thanked and hugged him and left with her child, who was transported to the hospital.

"I was in so much shock," Angel said. "I was so amazed I knew what to do. … I was kind of worried. I didn't know what to do or what to think because I didn't know if he was OK or not."

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