Granbury students honor drowning victims
Granbury High School seniors Oscar Rios and Julio Espinosa-Guerrero were known for their contagious smiles and work ethic.
Rios, 18, and Espinosa-Guerrero, 17, drowned Monday while swimming in a lake near Glen Rose. The two high school seniors were participating in a nonsanctioned "skip day" just days after their high school prom. The teens were among about 400 seniors gearing up for graduation May 25 at the Fort Worth Convention Center.
Bella Espinoza, 25, said her cousin, Julio, was a kind, generous person who helped everyone — a characteristic that was on display Monday when he swam out to help Rios when he disappeared underwater.
"He was a very happy person. Someone who would never say, 'no,' to you no matter the favor you would ask," she said, adding, "He died trying to help somebody."
The Granbury High School community remembered their classmates Tuesday by releasing white balloons.
“We are gathered here this afternoon to show our love and honor the memories of our fallen classmates Julio and Oscar," according to a news release from the Granbury school district. "Friends have requested that we release white balloons as a symbol of our releasing them from this earth. To the families, friends, classmates and teachers of Oscar and Julio, you are not alone. We will walk through this tough time together.”
The principal at Granbury High School is exploring how the two young men can be remembered at the upcoming graduation.
'The hallways are not the same since they've been gone'
On social media, pictures depict happy young men who had taken part in the prom Saturday. Their deaths touched the entire Granbury community, where friends and family are trying to raise money for funeral costs.
"Julio and Oscar were two bright souls who went to school with smiles on their faces and created more than just friendships with their classmates," family and friends said in a statement to the Star-Telegram.
Zehila Hernandez, who is a friend of both families, said the immigrant youths from Mexico lifted classmates who were having a bad day.
"Classmates say the hallways are not the same since they’ve been gone," said the statement from the families. "The school is quiet and mourning the loss of these students."
Espinosa-Guerrero was described as a “very respectful, positive, athletic and extremely hardworking” person. On days off from school, he worked with his father and family in construction. He had a deep passion for Mexican music, including the traditional ranchera style made popular by famous singers such as Vicente Fernandez.
“He didn’t care what color someone was, their financial status, or what they looked like ... he would do anything to help or save someone,” Hernandez said.
Rios lived in Granbury with his aunt and uncle. His family lives in Mexico. His goal was to graduate from high school and go to college. Rios played varsity soccer for the Granbury Pirates.
“He always had a smile on his face," said Doug Kissinger, the Granbury soccer coach. "He was a joy to be around. He was genuinely happy."
A community helps with donations
The teens died shortly after 3:30 p.m. Monday after being flown to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, according to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office and Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds.
The teens were swimming at Wheeler Branch Reservoir in neighboring Somervell County, southwest of Fort Worth, Deeds said.
Friends said the youths were having fun on Monday during the "skip day."
Several grassroots efforts are underway to help the families. Z-Hair Studio in Granbury is accepting donations at the salon for funeral expenses of both families. A GoFundMe account set up for Rios' funeral expenses and to transfer him from Granbury to Mexico, where his family lives.
A benefit account has been opened at First National Bank of Granbury on behalf of Espinosa-Guerrero to help his family. Friends of his family have also established a GoFundMe account.
Granbury High School also had students gather donations from classmates to help out the families.
Visitation for Espinosa-Guerrero will be Thursday at Wiley Funeral Home in Granbury. Funeral service is set for 11 a.m. Friday at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church in Granbury.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.