Mother remembers son who recently moved to Bakersfield and died in Kern River

Posted at 2:53 PM, Aug 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-11 20:41:27-04

On Tuesday the Board of Supervisors approved a plan to place 18 warning signs about the dangers of the Kern River in and around Hart Park.

This decision was made a little too late for this immigrant family living in Bakersfield.

"'Don't go in the water' my grandson said he told him. 'The river isn't bad here because there isn't a sign. If there was a sign maybe with a skull, then maybe that would be true' he told him," Jovita Diaz, mother of a man who recently passed away in the river said.

Her 21-year-old son Brayan Lopez-Diaz was reported missing on July 23 near Hart Park. His body was found near Gordon's Ferry four days later.

Jovita, Brayan and the rest of their family crossed the border over to the U.S. just four weeks before he went missing.

ICE detained Jovita when she got here and when she was released, her daughter had to greet her with the news that her son was still missing after going in the river.

"I was thinking on my way here how I would hug my children... from the youngest to the oldest... but when I was released I hugged the babies first and then I saw my daughter in the corner going like this," Jovita said cracking her knuckles.

Search and rescue teams have received 120 calls to the river this year, while they only received 20 last year. Due to "extraordinary conditions," the Board of Supervisors said in a report, the river is very dangerous now.

From 2012 to 2016 a total of 13 people died in the Kern River. This year there have been 13 deaths, five of which entered the river from the Hart Park area.

Brayan was at Hart Park with his church participating in baptisms. The pastor warned everyone not to go swimming after, but Brayan, having been in Bakersfield about two weeks didn't know about the dangers of the current.

"The pastor warned them not to go swimming but my grandson said Brayan looked everywhere and thought maybe it wasn't true because there weren't any signs," Jovita said.

His sister jumped in behind him to try to help him and she almost didn't make it herself.

Now all they have left of Brayan is the desire to move forward in a new country. 

The family is now waiting to get his body back so that they can lay him to rest in Guatemala.