It was Jagjit Basra’s first and last time in the river.
The 19-year-old from India drowned Sunday after leaping in to save two nephews, his family said Monday.
“He didn’t think it was going to be that deep,” said Pavitter Dosanjh, 54, the victim’s brother-in-law.
Basra was sitting on the shore, while his two nephews, Dilsharn, 4, and Jedsharn, 6, swam near Tiscornia Beach. A wave from a big boat suddenly swept the children out to center, and Basra panicked, jumping in the water to rescue them.
Within seconds, Basra had disappeared in the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers. Meanwhile, the two kids were plucked safely from the water.
After 40 grueling minutes, divers from the Sacramento Fire Department found Basra unconscious but still transported him to UC Davis Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
The victim did not know how to swim and was not wearing a life jacket, according to Dosanjh.
On Monday, Basra’s family received a steady stream of condolences from relatives around the globe. Basra’s mother, Balvir Basra, 57, of Sacramento, recently obtained a visa for her son to come to the U.S.
“In our culture, sons stay with the mom,” Dosanjh said. “We’ve been crying all day and night.”
Basra was the family’s only son and youngest child. He was studying to become a pharmacy technician and worked as a server for the family’s India Plate restaurant in West Sacramento.
Dosanjh said Basra was always excited to see the river when they crossed the bridge into West Sacramento. In remembrance, the family is planning an around-the-clock, Sikh scripture reading that begins Monday night until the funeral on Sunday.
Basra’s death adds to the 12 previous drownings reported for the two major rivers in Sacramento County this year, twice the normal amount. Drownings on the Sacramento River were more than four times the normal amount, jumping from an average of about 1.5 a year to six in 2015.
There have been at least nine drownings this summer in the waters near Tiscornia Beach, where the two rivers converge, and at least five in the past two months, according to the Sacramento Fire Department. The beach, next to Discovery Park, is a popular recreation area.
Volunteers with the Drowning Accident Rescue Team have patrolled the waterways on weekends during the summer, but pulled back after Labor Day. James Collentine, chief of operations for DART, was surprised by the number of people at the beach Sunday.
“It’s been hot,” said Collentine, who responded to the drowning.
DART is not planning additional patrols, but will respond to incidents as necessary, Collentine said.