Local News

Family: Boy drowned trying to save friend

Posted August 7, 2008 5:25 a.m. EDT
Updated August 7, 2008 6:07 p.m. EDT

— 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.