Friends and family remember man who drowned in Tempe Town Lake

Tempe Police have identified the man who drowned in Tempe Town Lake Sunday. 

Authorities identified him as 27-year-old Michael Bzichaza. 

Witnesses called 9-1-1 after they heard him shouting for help.

Police say he was swimming by himself when he went underwater and never surfaced. 

Volunteers searched for him, along with divers from Tempe Police. The divers found his body and pulled him from the water Sunday night.

Now his friends and family are holding a vigil to remember a man who literally fought his way into the United States, from his home country of the Congo.

They say they are waiting for answers as to what happened to him at the lake, but they say he left a huge impact on everyone who knew him.

"He was an amazing human being; that's the only way to describe him," said Heritier Ruhorimbere. 

Michael's brother says his passing has left a hole in their family and tight-knit community.

"He had a lot of friends from different backgrounds, all walks of life," said Heritier.

The family says they are still in shock after learning he drowned in Tempe Town Lake.

"Our hearts our broken, we don't really know what happened," he said.

At the age of nine, Michael left his home, the Republic of the Congo for a better life here in the United States. 

"At 9-years-old he had endured prison time for more than 15 months where he saw his friends die from all those things," said Heritier.

But despite all the hardships, Michael thrived when he arrived in Arizona. He was the first in his family to learn English and helped others learn it too.

He was an accomplished runner in high school. His brother proudly showed just a few of the medals and awards Michael had won.

Michael had also just started taking classes at Arizona State University.

"He went through all those things and seeing how he died here, it's an unfortunate thing for us. That is why it's hard for us to take it and accept it, but maybe time will heal us.

The Maricopa County Medical Examiner will determine the exact cause of death.
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