Friends mourn drowning victim; 20-year-old dies while swimming in Salt River

Family and friends are stunned at the sudden loss of a 20-year-old valley man, who drowned in the Salt River over the weekend.

What was a fun day on Sunday quickly turned tragic. Those who knew him say he was a good swimmer, but didn't make it across the river.

Jesus Cortez was just 20-years-old, and he was weeks away from earning his Certified Nursing Assistant License.

Instead of celebrating his future, his friends are now planning his funeral.

The scene on the Salt River was near Saguaro Lake. Deputies were seen at the water's edge talking with the family of 20-year-old Jesus Cortez. He tried to cross the river, but about halfway through he slipped under.

Cortez was under water for about 15 minutes before bystanders pulled him out. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

"He's like a brother to me, he was a good person," said Angel Hernandez.

Hernandez is a childhood friend of Cortez. The nursing student had a bright future, and his family was very proud of him.

"They looked to him because they knew he could make something out of himself," said Hernandez.

"He wanted to become a nurse because he wanted to help out his family, he was telling me he wanted to pay bills for them so they wouldn't have to worry about much," he said.

Now instead of celebrating his future, family members are grieving over a life cut short.

"We cried together, his mom is a strong woman, she tried to hold it in so much. To lose a son is just devastating," said Hernandez.

Hernandez set up an online fundraising account, stepping up to help his friends parents bury their son, who they had such high hopes for.

"Just want to do something nice for the family, just to get the stress off their back," he said. 

Deputies say alcohol was not a factor in Cortez's drowning. they say he became exhausted while swimming, and while he was a good swimmer he just did not have the energy to make it all the way across the river.

If you would like to donate to Cortez's family you can donate here: http://www.gofundme.com/r5juwk?fb_action_ids=905777452798113
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