Last Monday, 17-year-old student Cristian Burgos tragically drowned after saving a mother and her 9-year-old son who were in danger of being pulled under by a strong ocean top current. Now, the students at his Miami-area high school are letting his family know that they will always remember him for what he was — a hero.
The incident occurred last Monday at Virginia Key, a small island immediately southeast of downtown Miami that is known for its public beach parks. Elvia Venegas and her 9-year-old daughter were swimming in the ocean when a top current threatened to pull them under, according to WFOR-TV.
Burgos saw Venegas struggling and rushed into the water to help. Although he was able to save them, he himself was pulled under into the rough surf and had to be rescued by first responders and rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital. Burgos was noted to be comatose upon arrival to the hospital, and when he was removed from life support last Wednesday, he passed away.
According to WFOR, the family released a statement after his death that read, "Our little hero has passed away less than 10 minutes ago. We want to thank you all who have been praying for his supernatural recovery. Thank you all who have been donating to help his mother, from the bottom of our hearts. We ask you to keep us the family, especially his mother in your prayers. God bless you all ❤️"
Thursday, his classmates and faculty honored Burgos at the school in a touching ceremony, with Burgos' mother Maria Del Carmen Avenado in attendance. Students wept and delivered messages to Avenado in person, and Avenado was presented with a plaque. Then, the student body spelled out the word "HERO" in giant letters on the football field to honor his memory.
According to WFOR, Burgos' grandmother says this was not the first time he put his life on the line to help save another person from drowning, and that he also saved the life of a girl from West Palm Beach last year.
Venegas told WFOR, "If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be alive right now. I am just eternally grateful at this moment. That's all I can say right now."
The school district also established a $20,000 scholarship in Burgos' name "students who demonstrate courage and selflessness on behalf of others."
Local politicians have also been working to ensure that Burgos' father — who lives in Nicaragua — can attend the funeral. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez praised the efforts of Sen. Rick Scott (R), in particular, for helping to obtain a humanitarian visa for Burgos' father to pay respsects.