Efforts will continue Tuesday morning to recover a body from the Cuyahoga River, which is high and fast-moving following recent rain.

Catalino Hernandez, 24, of Akron's North Hill neighborhood, was swept away in the river Sunday night. He and two cousins went swimming in the Chuckery area of Cascade Valley Metro Park in the city's Merriman Valley neighborhood.

Fire Department spokeswoman Lt. Sierjie Lash said authorities received the first call for help around 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Juan Santay, 26, one of the cousins, told police that he was not a good swimmer and at some point Hernandez tried to help him. Santay, who is not fluent in English, indicated in an interview that he was underwater. He said the third cousin at the park Sunday evening told him that Hernandez attempted to rescue him.

On Sunday evening, authorities began a search in the water that lasted until about 9:30 p.m.

Around 12:30 p.m. Monday, Akron police Lt. Rick Edwards said authorities were in a recovery mode, searching the river for Hernandez's body.

“Anything after 90 minutes, the chances are very slim that you’re going to save somebody’s life,” Edwards said, speaking to media personnel at the site where the three men initially went in the water.

It was not clear at that time Monday where on the river authorities were searching. They were not visible from the area where Edwards spoke.

Monday's search was suspended around 4 p.m.

By noon Monday, some 20 members of Hernandez's family, all from Guatemala, had gathered in a parking lot at the Chuckery — the same lot that served as a staging area for the members of various police departments making up the response team.

At least one of the family members had driven from Kentucky.

Karen Fuentes, who is married to a cousin of Hernandez — not one of the cousins who went swimming Sunday evening — said Hernandez had been in the United States for about six years. Hernandez lived with her and her husband in North Hill, not far from the park.

He worked at a window factory in Cuyahoga Falls, earning money to support himself and to send home to relatives in Guatemala.

"If you needed help, he was always there," Fuentes said.

She said although the current was strong, the cousins may have thought the open area along the bank — free of trees — was a swimming area and may have had a false sense of security.

A Summit County Metro Parks ranger on the scene Monday said the river is not a designated swimming area. The district's designated swimming areas, which have lifeguards, are at Munroe Falls and Silver Creek parks.

Stephanie Walton, spokeswoman for Summit County Metro Parks, said the park district doesn't manage the river "but we still want to advise people not to go swimming in the river" in the park district.

"The current can be moving more quickly than it appears when we've had a lot of rain as we have recently," said Walton, chief of marketing and communication for the park district. Rocks in the river "are very slippery and you can lose your footing quickly."

The depth of the river ranges from 6 inches to 9 feet, she said, fluctuating along the length of the river.

 

Reach Katie Byard at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com.