CROTON-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. - Croton police are investigating a Bronx man's drowning Tuesday evening in the Croton River.
The death of Carlos Cholco, 40, was ruled accidental by the Westchester Medical Examiner's office, after it appears Cholco entered the river to help his two struggling sons.
First responders' attempts to save Cholco were hampered by the steep terrain of the riverside and the nearly absolute low tide, officials said.
Croton Police Department Chief Anthony Tramaglini said police still are investigating the exact series of events. This is what is known based on the preliminary investigation:
Cholco and his family arrived at the river and parked the car on the river's east shore, at Quaker Bridge Road. The family walked down to the riverside from a steep slope, and Cholco entered the water with his two sons. Michael Cholco, 8, began to struggle, and it appears his 13-year-old brother, Kevin Meza, helped pull him out of the water before beginning to struggle himself.
Cholco tried to help his two struggling sons out of the river before slipping under water himself, just south of Fireman's Island.
A sister, Daisy Meza, then helped Kevin out of the water, but he passed out. He regained consciousness and coughed up water after his sister administered chest compressions.
After helping her brother, it appears Daisy and the other members of the family lost sight of their father and began yelling for help.
Someone called 911 at 8:12 p.m. reporting a man in the water. At about the same time, off-duty Croton police officer Evan Murtaugh and a female companion were jogging near Truesdale Avenue, on the west shore of the river. The pair heard the family's cries for help. The woman swam across the river and pulled Cholco to shore, where she began to administer CPR. Police did not disclose the woman's name.
Croton Fire Department personnel arrived on scene after receiving conflicting reports on where the incident's location. Paramedics and emergency medical personnel from Ossining Volunteer Ambulance Corps arrived, but were unable to use a basket to bring Cholco up the steep slope of the riverbank to the road, police said.
Ambulance personnel performed life support while police navigated an inflatable boat from the Echo Canoe Launch at the mouth of the river. The operation was set into motion minutes before the river's low tide, said multiple first responder sources. The tide was so low Detective Sgt. John Nikitopoulos and Croton firefighter Russell Dinkler were forced to carry the inflatable boat over two separate sections of the river before reaching Cholco, nearly 10 minutes later, according to first responders. The boat then began navigating downstream to the Echo Canoe Launch where Cholco could be transported by ambulance.
Cholco was pronounced dead at the scene. His wife, Ofelia Cholco, two sons and daughter were transported to Westchester Medical Center. Tramaglini said it appears the other members of the family were uninjured.