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Hero teen drowns in river after saving his 4-year-old brother

Alex Harris, 18, rushed to rescue is younger sibling who was caught in a river current.
Alex Harris died after rescuing his 4-year-old brother, Asher.Tyson Harris
/ Source: TODAY

A Missouri teenager is being hailed as a hero after he drowned while rescuing his 4-year-old sibling.

Alex Harris, 18, was swimming in the Missouri River on July 23, when his brother Asher got caught in a strong current. 

“I heard Alex yelling for help and my wife and I took off running,” the boys’ father, Tyson Harris, told TODAY Parents. “The water was moving so fast. I’d never seen anything like it before.”

“Alex held Asher up until his mom got there and then he went down,” Harris said.

"I watched his hands let go and he sank. I knew his exhaustion he was feeling," Alex's mother, Nikki, said in part. "I tried so hard to get to him faster."

Alex’s body was pulled from the water the following day.

“My son is a hero,” Harris said. “If he had to do that over 100 times, he’d do the same thing every time. He was not leaving Asher."

Even with a 14-year age difference, Harris said Alex and Asher shared a special bond. A few days before Alex passed away, he was captured on the family’s security camera consoling Asher, who had fallen off his bike and skinned his knees.

“We have video of Alex carrying Asher in his arms,” Harris said. 

Alex graduated high school in June and was working for the family’s outfitter business in northwest Missouri. 

“We’d be up really early moving thousands of decoys around fields. I could always count on him,” Harris shared. “People just liked being around him. We have hundreds and hundreds of clients that come through here every year and they remember Alex.”


Asher Harris, 4, shared a special bond with his brother Alex.Tyson Harris

Harris said Asher understands that Alex saved his life, and has been telling people that his brother is in heaven with Jesus. But it hasn’t sunk in that Alex isn’t coming back.

Harris is also struggling to accept Alex's death.

“We’d drive to work together every morning — a 15 minute drive and I really looked forward to it,” an emotional Harris said. “We’d listen to music and talk about stuff. Every morning I expect him to be here. I’ll sit around and wait a little bit like maybe he’s coming.”

The Missouri State Highway Patrol stresses the importance of wearing personal flotation device when on a river or any unpredictable body of water.

“If you get caught in a current, your energy depletes very rapidly even if you're an experienced swimmer," Sgt. Shane Hux told TODAY. “When our state troopers patrol the river, they always wear a life jacket.”

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