Family says teen died a hero trying to save brother from California river

Jun 8, 2023, 5:09 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A 15-year-old who died in the Sacramento River over the weekend was trying to save his younger brother, the family said.

Amari Quarles jumped in to help his 13-year-old brother, Elijah, who went into the surging river to retrieve a thrown football during a family gathering at Sand Cove Park on Sunday.

“He died a hero. He died to save somebody else’s life, and he lost his in turn,” Amari’s father, James Sashe, told KXTV-TV.

Amari, who loved football and music, had just completed his freshman year at Natomas High School and got straight As this semester, his family said.

When he saw his brother struggling in the current, the teenager jumped in and the boys began to drift.

Amari’s stepmother, Yolanda Sashe, went into the water to help.

“The water is just pulling you and tugging you and dragging you and holding you,” she told the TV station. “And the pressure on my chest as I’m swimming to Elijah, I’m like, I know they’re in trouble.”

A boater got her and Elijah to safety but Amari was swept away.

“I clenched my hand to hold him and this water just rushed and snatched him, just took him away. He was gone,” she said.

Amari’s body was recovered Monday morning.

“He had told me, ‘One of us is going to have to go down,’ and he made sure it wasn’t me,” Elijah said. “It really hurts not seeing him here right now, and it just hurts just speaking about him knowing that I can’t turn and hug him.”

The family recently moved to the area from New York.

Amari’s mother, Marjorie Quarles, said her son “lit up the room when he knew you were upset. He would do anything to make you smile.”

“He was my miracle boy,” she said.

A GoFundMe page to cover funeral costs had raised about $23,000 of its $50,000 goal as of Thursday.

Several people have died recently in fast-moving Northern California rivers that have swollen from melting snow after a record winter.

On Wednesday, authorities found the body of 20-year-old Stockton man who on Sunday vanished after jumping into the Yuba River near Bridgeport, in Nevada County northeast of Sacramento.

“We continue to urge residents and visitors to please enjoy the beauty of the Yuba from the banks and to resist the urge to enter the river,” the county Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. “The water is currently extremely high, cold, fast and far too dangerous to be in.”

Two weeks ago, searchers found the body of a 4-year-old boy in a the Kings River, a day after his 8-year-old sister died when the siblings were swept away by the current.

The children, who were not wearing life jackets, entered the water with their mother and another adult while trying to make their way to climb on a rock near Pine Flat Dam in Fresno County, the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

Signs have been posted along the Kings and San Joaquin rivers since March 14 urging people to stay out of the water because of hazardous conditions, the Sheriff’s Office said.

At least two other people have drowned or gone missing after being swept away in California rivers in recent weeks.

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