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Mike Nowatzki, Published December 24 2008

Moorhead man, grandson drown in Texas

A Moorhead man and his 4-year-old grandson drowned during a fishing trip in Texas when the boy fell into the water and the man – who didn’t know how to swim – jumped in to try to save him, authorities said.

Ramon Alonzo, 58, was visiting family when the accident happened Saturday afternoon near Crystal City, Texas, said Martha Castanon of Moorhead, who knew Alonzo.

Ramon Alonzo was well-known in Fargo-Moorhead’s Hispanic community, said Castanon, a paralegal at Migrant Legal Services in Fargo.

“He was a guy who helped people, friendly guy,” she said.

Alonzo also was “very attached to his grandkids,” including 4-year-old Elisha Alonzo, who died in Saturday’s accident, she said.

Elisha and two older siblings were fishing with their grandfather on a sloped concrete slab along a river near Crystal City, said Robert Mendoza, acting sheriff in Dimmit County, Texas.

When Elisha fell into the water, Ramon Alonzo jumped in to try to save his grandson, Mendoza said. Elisha’s 6-year-old sister then jumped in to help her drowning grandfather. She also began drowning, but her 8-year-old brother was able to pull her out with a branch, Mendoza said.

The two children ran three-quarters of a mile to a road, where a man in a red truck picked them up and drove them about four or five miles to their home in Crystal City.

Their mother called authorities, and deputies found the bodies of Ramon Alonzo and Elisha floating on the water about 4:30 p.m. They were declared dead at a hospital about three hours later, Mendoza said, calling it a “very sad deal.”

Elisha was living in Texas with his mother, Teresa, who moved there from Moorhead about 18 months ago, according to Graciela Balderas, who served with Teresa Alonzo as co-chairwomen of the Moorhead nonprofit group Mujeres Unidas/Women United.

Balderas said Ramon Alonzo was a volunteer who prepared food boxes at the Dorothy Day House in Moorhead and helped with preparations and kitchen cleanup during the annual Our Lady of Guadalupe festivities at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Moorhead.

“Ramon was a nice person and had a lot of respect for everybody,” she said.

On Elisha, she said, “All the time there was a happy face.”

Alonzo’s brother, state Rep. Roberto Alonzo of Dallas, announced the deaths, The Associated Press reported Monday.

Autopsies have been ordered, the AP reported.

Funerals were set to take place today, Mendoza said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528