CHESHIRE, Conn. (WTNH) – One week after an 18-year-old drowned in a local pond, a Good Samaritan is helping his family get his body back to Ecuador.
Jefferson Loja was last seen at Mixville Pond in Cheshire swimming with his friends on July 10. Police searched for hours, eventually finding his body on July 11. The medical examiner ruled his death an accidental drowning.
News 8’s Lauren Linder talked with Jefferson’s father, Julian, through a video.
“His dream was to come over here and have the American Dream, and be able to help his family back in Ecuador,” Julian said, translated by Omar Montoya of Cheshire.
18-year-old Jefferson immigrated to the U.S. in March to make money for his parents and siblings.
“They were supportive, but at the same time they were sad,” Julian said, translated by Montoya.
Months later, Julian got the call no parent ever wants to receive. He learned Jefferson died while swimming at Mixville Pond.
“It’s just tragic all the way around,” Montoya said.
Montoya is also from Ecuador, and when he heard the news, he wanted to do something to help. He connected with Jefferson’s parents and learned they financed their home to pay for Jefferson to come to the U.S. and what it would take to get Jefferson’s body back home.
“I was in the army and they teach you there that you don’t leave nobody behind,” Montoya said. “And I felt like this wasn’t a good situation and I wasn’t going to let him stay here.”
As of Sunday night, Omar has raised more than $17,000 through a GoFundMe page.
State Representative Liz Linehan (D) of the 103rd District helped to spread the word.
“Even though he wasn’t from this area originally, Cheshire has really embraced him, his family, and his story,” Linehan said.
In Connecticut, Jefferson worked as a roofer, hoping to become a businessman. Unfortunately, that dream will not come true.
However, Jefferson’s family is thankful for all the support and looks forward to the day they see their loved one once again.
“They want him to rest in peace on his own land, and be able to hug him one more time,” Julian said, translated by Montoya.
Jefferson’s parents said he had been taking swimming lessons in Ecuador before coming to the U.S.