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Family: Boy drowned trying to save friend

Posted August 7, 2008

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— The family of an 11-year-old boy who drowned Wednesday evening said he died trying to save a friend.

Rescue workers found Alvin Leon Harris Jr.'s body around 9 a.m. Thursday, more than half a mile from where he entered the water. 

“I really loved him. He was my stepson...he’s more of a son than my own son,” Alvin’s stepfather Bernard Johnson said.

Alvin, who had limited swimming experience, was able to rescue Sara Rojo Mungaia, 12, from the Roanoke River before he was swept away by a strong current, his family said.

Alvin, Sara and another friend were playing near a boat landing, off Rockfish Drive, when Alvin went into the water to save Sara.

“He sacrificed his life for somebody else, which was a good thing. I mean, that says a lot about his character,” said Donna Jones, Alvin’s aunt.

Alvin, who was from Northampton County, was at a cookout with five family friends. His parents were not there, officials said.

After Alvin went missing under the water, search crews from two counties set up a command post to find him. Rescuers combed the Roanoke River near Halifax and Northampton counties.

A helicopter aided in the search, and crews used sonar-equipped boats and flood lights to search for the boy in the darkness.

They were able to find his body in a shallow part of the water, Northampton County Sheriff Wardie Vincent said.

Vincent said the drowning was an accident and charges are not pending.

Alvin was a sixth grader at the KIPP Gaston College Prep school. Grief counselors will be at the school starting Friday to speak to students.


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  • bluewind Aug 8, 2008

    A true hereo...Jesus welcomes with open arms...prayers to the family.

  • Commentor5 Aug 8, 2008

    WRAL - why would you post this statement?

    “I really loved him. He was my stepson...he’s more of a son than my own son,” Alvin’s stepfather Bernard Johnson said"

    What value does this add to your story? You need to remember that someone just lost a child - posting a statement like this is a bit over the top. Yes, the stepfather said it - but sometimes when people have experienced a tragedy such as this, they may say some things that come out the wrong way.....

    You should, with respect to this family, remove this statement from your story.

  • xchief661 Aug 8, 2008

    God Bless his family!!!Poor sweet little boy was so brave and yet to lose his life is sad beyond words. The world has lost a precious asset but heaven has gained a precious angel.

  • Historian snuck back in Aug 8, 2008

    What an amazing young man, such character and bravery, the world needs more people like this young man. Our Heavenly Father must have needed another Angel, and out of the 6.7 million people in the world, he was the most qualified for the job!!!

    Godspeed "Little Man!"

  • ladyblue Aug 8, 2008

    No greater sacrifice can one give than the life of themselves for another. My heart goes out to this family and his deeds is a refection of how good his parents raised him. I know you are proud but grieving parents at this time. My prayers are with your family. Don't let the words of some selfish ones diminish the fact that this young man risked his life to save another and has paid the ultimate price. We wouldn't expect them to understand what being unselfish is about.

  • vsusu2002 Aug 8, 2008

    "I'm not dying for ANYONE. Bad choice on the kids part."

    Canes06, I am sure this child didn't go in thinking that he was going to die. Geez!

    Oh the other hand, I was hoping and praying that they would find him alive. My thoughts and prayers are with the family.

  • Mom of two Aug 8, 2008

    What a sad story. Died saving a friend. My prayers to his family and the little girl he saved. He truely sounds special.

  • tarheelblue919 Aug 8, 2008

    it makes you wonder what other wonderful things this young man could have taught the world? seems like he had the heart of an angel! i hope in some way, that comfort and peace find his family and friends. dont you know he has has his very own brand new set of wings this morning....what a comforting thought....

  • mom2threecld Aug 8, 2008

    very, very sad. he looks like such a sweet, adorable child. i know family is heartbroken. prayers to the family

  • 3potato4 Aug 8, 2008

    “I really loved him. He was my stepson...he’s more of a son than my own son,” Alvin’s stepfather Bernard Johnson said.

    Ouch to the surviving son. WRAL, even if this was the Stepfathers quote, couldn't you have left out the last part?

    Very sad for the loss of this child. :(