Cristian Burgos, a 17-year-old senior at Booker T. Washington High School in Miami, died just two days after rescuing a mother and child from drowning in the waters off Virginia Key. Days later, the brave teen’s school cohort remembered him with a moving tribute.
After saving the 25-year-old mother and her 9-year-old son from the water on Sept. 30, 2019, Burgos was caught in the strong rip currents and had to be rescued himself. According to NBC Miami, the mother, Elvia Venegas, had been teaching her son how to swim when they got stuck.
Burgos was dragged from the water by two bystanders but was not breathing when paramedics arrived on the scene at around 5 p.m. After being pulled ashore, Burgos was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital; his condition was immediately deemed critical.
“Doctors are saying there’s a 98 percent chance he might not make it,” the family wrote on a GoFundMe page dedicated to raising funds for Burgos’s medical expenses.
A Florida teenager who risked his life to save a mother and her 9-year-old son from drowning died on Wednesday after he was taken off life support.
“His family doesn’t have the capability to pay for the hospital bill,” they continued. “His mom is a single mom and his dad was recently deported to Nicaragua. We are praying to God for something miraculous to happen.”
The teen fell into a coma and later passed away after being taken off life support. Meanwhile, Venegas and her son survived.
Classmates of the late teen hero honored him on Oct. 4, 2019, with a tribute on the school’s football field. Booker T. Washington students gathered on the field and formed the word “hero” with their bodies, visible from an aerial view, to salute Burgos’s selfless act and his devastatingly premature death. The tribute was fitting; Burgos was a soccer player himself. The school also held a candlelit vigil two days later.
“As a teacher, to lose a student and then to see the reaction of all the other students, too, it’s been devastating,” teacher Veronique Toussaint said, as per ABC 12.
The school’s principal, William Aristide, added, “I don’t know of a better definition of a hero than that young man.”
This was a beautiful tribute … https://www.local10.com/news/local/miami/high-school-classmates-honor-teen-hero-cristian-burgos
Burgos was remembered lovingly by his friends, family, and classmates. “We’ve always been friends, always talked, and I miss him so much,” student Naomi Omogiate told Local 10 News.
“He was not only my friend, he was like my brother,” another student added.
Burgos’s heartbroken girlfriend, Mayte Padilla, also spoke to WSVN News 7. “He’s an amazing person,” she said. “What he did, I’m so proud of him.”
School administrators gifted Burgos’s mother, Maria Del Carmen Avenado, with a commemorative plaque. Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho also announced a $20,000 scholarship in the brave teen’s honor.
The scholarship will be awarded to students who demonstrate “courage, determination, kindness, and selflessness” on behalf of others.
Burgos’s mother told CBS 4, “He’s the best son. He’s the most beautiful person I have had. He is a hero. I am happy and I am sad, because I wish this had not happened to him.”
The teen’s cousin, Nelly Alvarado, added, “I am honestly very proud of him. It was a selfless act. He didn’t think twice to go and help people. I know it was just instincts, just like he has done for everyone his whole life, helping other people.
“He would be happy to know that he saved two people,” Alvarado continued, “and he will be happy again.”
Venegas spoke on behalf of herself and her son, translated from Spanish, “If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be alive right now; I am just eternally grateful at this moment. That’s all I can say right now.”
But the teen’s family’s suffering was sadly far from over.
Avenado is alone after the death of her only son, since Burgos’s father was deported to Nicaragua in 2018. However, the extended family, in conjunction with Florida lawmakers, attempted to obtain an emergency humanitarian visa in order for Burgos’s father to be able to attend the teen’s funeral in Miami.
Representative Donna Shalala and Senator Rick Scott joined forces to arrange a meeting between Burgos’s father and the U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua.
The teen’s funeral was eventually held on Oct. 20, 2019. Burgos’s family thanked supporters for helping them through a difficult and painful time. Donations to Burgos’s GoFundMe account were consequently disabled; the fund accrued a total of $45,694 toward medical bills and funeral expenses.
Comments flooded in to the family’s page, offering words of comfort and gratitude for the young man’s spontaneous act of selflessness. “What a very courageous young man,” wrote one. “Angel! My heartfelt sympathy goes out to his parents.”
“It really touches my heart. As a mother I can relate to her pain,” wrote another. “God bless him, and give strength to the entire family.”
At the time of writing, it is unclear whether or not Burgos’s father made it to the funeral. Burgos’s hero status, however, remains uncontested. It is thanks to the 17-year-old’s quick actions that a mother and her 9-year-old son are able to voice their gratitude.