A father jumped into water instinctively when his son fell into the river. The 6-year-old was rescued by a passerby while the brave father, who could not swim, drowned. While his family grieved, precious photos of the father’s last moments captured by a bystander became a gift to comfort their souls.
Malik Williams, 25, went fishing with his family at Ben Butterworth Park in Moline, Illinois. He was sitting at the dock with his 6-year-old son, Jaden, while Jaden’s mom, Heather, was nursing their newborn baby in the car.
A 16-year-old passerby, Riley Gomez, was attracted by the tranquil scene of the duo sitting before a scenic background by the Mississippi River, so she snapped some pictures of them.
“I just saw this father and son bond. I thought it was a really nice thing,” she said. “They weren’t really talking. His son was just sitting on the dock drinking a Pepsi, watching his dad and looking at the river.”
The photos became the last image of the father.
“I was on the dock taking pictures of the sunset and I saw them,” Gomez told Inside Edition. “When I was going home, I turned around to see the sunset one last time and the little boy wasn’t on the dock anymore. Then I saw his father jump in.”
Gomez and another bystander, Von Thang, jumped into the water to save the father and son. Jaden was rescued by Gomez and Thang, but the brave dad drifted away with the current.
“I tried everything… I keep having dreams that I actually did save [Williams]. It still seems unreal to me,” said Gomez.
The photo became a precious gift after Williams’s death was confirmed.
“He seemed like an amazing father—he knew he couldn’t swim and he sacrificed his life to save his child. He’ll always be remembered as a hero,” said Gomez. “Knowing that there was one last thing I was able to give to that family, I’m really glad I did take that picture.”
The family can be supported on a GoFundMe page created in June this year.