Bodies of two teenagers recovered from Trinity River in Moss Hill

Law enforcement and firefighters had the grim task of finding two bodies in the Trinity River on Monday. The young men drowned in August while trying to save a 5-year-old girl.

The grim recovery of the bodies of two teenagers ended around 10 a.m. Monday. Boats from Tarkington and Cypress Lakes volunteer fire departments, using side-scan sonar, found their submerged bodies near pilings that prevent erosion along the Trinity River at the SH 105 bridge in Moss Hill, authorities say.

The two young men drowned Sunday night around 7:15 p.m. while attempting to save the life of a 5-year-old girl, who had become distressed while swimming. The girl’s father, Abel Castellanos, also jumped in the water to rescue her and also was overcome by the water. Castellanos saved his daughter, but was injured, requiring him to be flown by LifeFlight to a Houston-area trauma center for treatment.

The two young men – Jaerson Alvarez, 18, and Wilmer Alexi Rodriguez, 17 – struggled in the water before going under. They were not related to the victim, according to authorities.

Liberty County Sheriff’s Capt. Ken DeFoor called the two young men “Good Samaritans” who tried to assist but ultimately lost their own lives.

“This river, at this location, has claimed many lives over the past years. We constantly advise the public not to swim here. The river, on the surface, looks very placid, but there is an undercurrent all the time in this river. The bottom is extremely irregular. You can go from waist-deep water and step off into a hole that is 40-50 feet deep,” DeFoor said.

There are other dangers that lurk unseen in the water, he said.

“This marine life in this river that you would not want to encounter. There are alligators, underwater obstructions, trash and metal. It’s not a safe place to swim even though the sandbar looks inviting,” DeFoor said.

Keeping the public informed of the dangers of the river is an ongoing challenge.

“Over the years, there have been numerous very-large wooden signs posted here warning of the dangers of swimming here, but the public keeps tearing them down, breaking them up and using them for campfire wood,” DeFoor said. “So our warnings are verbal: Don’t try to swim here.”

Despite their young ages, one of the victims was a father and the other had a child on the way.

In addition to Tarkington and Cypress Lakes VFDs, assisting in the search were the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, Pct. 5 Constable’s Office, Hardin VFD, Liberty County Hazmat, Liberty County Fire Marshal Bill Hergemueller and Texas Game Warden Jake Noxon.

Neal Funeral Home of Cleveland transported the bodies from the scene.

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.


  1. If they keep taking the wooden signs why not make a sign that won’t burn! And put it up a little higher so they can’t take it down just the sign could possibly save the next life

    • I was late in posting the same thought, I’m with u Carrie they should put up a big metal sign on metal poles at least 6’ feet in the ground and weld the sign to the poles, Make the lettering with real bright letters and Fluorescent so that people can see it at night!!!!

      • Add on the police should a sign of their own with the first name and last name Initial and the date that persons died in the river maybe that will also help, JUTS REMEMBER NO BODY CAN FIX STUPID

  2. I would fish in that river, but i wont swim in it. My sister and brother almost drowned in that river in 1986 thank God my dad and uncle were able grab them as they had gone under several times. The river water might look smooth and be shallow but in a matter of seconds it could be several foot deep. the bottom is sand and shifts super easy. Please people stay out of the river.
    covering those families in love and prayers as time goes on.

  3. Them to young men are heroes God bless there families and loved ones and please put signs the can’t be destroyed

  4. Use some common sense and put up signs that can’t be torn down or burned. How many more people need to die before yall actually do something!!! People who don’t live there have no idea what that river is like. And in 100 degrees its tempting for anyone to jump in and cool off.

  5. There are thousands of speed limit signs posted throughout this state and people still speed so what good does it do to put signs up. They gonna do what they wanna do regardless.

    • Maybe but give people the choice of being careless. Some people may head the warning and save lives. You have to believe in the best in people.

  6. There has to be a solution to kepp people out of the water. It is a shame that grown ups do not listen and these tragedies happen. I am sure most people that live around there know the dangers and still go in it, so signs are not a good solution. I think a barracade of some sort might work.

  7. What’s sad is these two men were trying to save that child’s life and lost theirs true hero’s that now their kids will never know them. And yes I don’t care what kind of common sense it is signs that can’t be torn down needs to be put up and monitored to make sure they are still up next if the signs are up and ppl are still swimming if it’s an adult they know better then it’s on them but if the adult is allowing a child to swim after warning signs charge them! Period

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