The photo was an accident, a random snap by a stranger who appreciated the beautiful family moment in front of her. But it’s also a haunting reminder of a father’s last minutes with his son.
As WQAD News reports, 16-year-old Riley Gomez was walking past a dock in Moline, Illinois, when she took a picture of a father and son fishing in the Mississippi River. In the photo, the sun sets over the river as 25-year-old Malik Williams sits on a bucket, watching the water, his 6-year-old son beside him.Screenshot/WQAD News
Now, that photo has a special meaning for Williams’s family. His brother, Tim Bell, told WQAD:
“It’s a miracle. That photo is everything now.”
Only moments after Gomez snapped the picture, tragedy struck. Williams’s son fell off the dock and into the water. His father didn’t hesitate and jumped in after the young boy. Gomez recalled:
“He was panicked. As I saw him jump in the water he was trying to grab his son, but then, he was drowning.”
The teen told WQAD she called 911 as soon as Williams jumped into the river. It was clear that both father and son were in danger:
“Neither of them could swim. The fiancée was yelling, ‘Neither of them could swim!'”
Another witness, Von Thang, heard the screams and jumped in the water to help, but could only reach Williams’s son. He helped pull the boy to safety, but could not save the father.
Bell said it was just like his brother to dive in after his son, even knowing he couldn’t swim:
“He’s a hard working, caring, loving family man. He didn’t know how to swim. He didn’t think twice. He was going to try to save his son.”
Though police searched the river for Williams, they found no signs of the missing father. On Wednesday afternoon, authorities suspended the recovery effort.
Bell broke down as he spoke to WQAD about how Williams had dedicated himself to his family and loved to spend time outdoors with his son:
“He loved the outdoors. He loved fishing. He did it for fun; it gave him peace. It’s devastating. He’s my little brother. I wish I could go into that river and find him.”
He takes comfort from the fact that his nephew survived and says their family is grateful to everyone who helped save him. What’s more, he knows this was what his brother wanted. Bell said Williams was the kind of father who would do anything to save his child, and given the chance, he’d do it again.