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Father, 10-year-old son rescued after near-drowning at Deer Creek Reservoir

Miguel Severo and his 6-year-old son Thiago
Miguel Severo
Miguel Severo and his 6-year-old son Thiago

A family day at Deer Creek State Park took a scary turn when a father and son almost drowned. Miguel Severo shared the story with KPCW in hopes of contacting two young women who he said saved their lives

With temperatures in the mid-90s, Saturday was a perfect sunny day for a swim in the Heber Valley. Miguel Severo and his 6-year-old son Thiago, Uruguay residents who are visiting family in Park City, decided to spend it swimming.

They went to the state park’s main beach area. In the afternoon, Thiago was swimming toward inflatable climbing structures in the water with two cousins when he started to struggle.

“The life vest was a little bit small, so as they started to get closer to the bouncy houses and the people were jumping, it started to create waves as they were getting closer,” said Stefany Palmer, a cousin also there that day, translating the father’s account of what happened. “So, the little boy started drowning due to the waves.”

Severo said he acted quickly when he noticed his son going under. He swam after him without putting on a life vest of his own. He reached Thiago and pushed him above water, but quickly started sinking himself with only one arm to keep them both afloat.

At that moment, two strangers came to the rescue.

“Two girls were on the bouncy house,” Palmer explained. “One of them jumped and grabbed the little boy out of the water and put him on top of the bouncy house. And they noticed that by that time Miguel had swallowed a lot of water, so he wasn't doing well. He couldn't keep himself afloat. So, they jumped back in the water to pick him up and kind of put him over the bouncy house. So, he just lay there to try to catch his breath and get some of the water out of his system.”

The family guessed the pair were about 18 years old.

“I am really grateful for the girls who were there to save me and my son's life,” Severo said. “Had it not been for them, [we] probably would have drowned.”

Next, a bystander on a jet ski brought the father, son and young women to shore. All were shaken, and Severo, who still had water in his lungs and low blood pressure, took some time to recover.

The young women left before the group could talk much or exchange contact information. Now, Severo wants to find and thank them.

He also said he’d return to Deer Creek, and he learned a lesson through the scary experience.

“He didn't have a life vest because he knew how to swim, but we never knew that, you know, his son was going to need the help swimming,” Palmer said. “So, he will make sure that next time he goes back, he and his son have the proper equipment to jump back in the water so that it doesn't happen again.”

Several swimmers have drowned at Deer Creek Reservoir in recent years, most recently an 18-year-old visitor from Venezuela in June.

Anyone who has information that could help Severo reach their rescuers can email news@kpcw.org or call the KPCW office at 435-649-9004.

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