Family, friends of father who drowned at Annette Lake say he was a ‘good swimmer, a strong man’

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The family and friends of a 39-year-old man who drowned earlier this month at Annette Lake in Jasper National Park are sharing their story, as Alberta continues through a deadly summer on the water.

Hugo Escovedo Sr., his wife Maribelle, son Hugo Jr. and two family friends were visiting Jasper for the August-long weekend when the two couples went out for an afternoon boat ride on Annette Lake on Aug. 3.

“Hugo (Sr.), his wife Mari, and my husband and I went into the boat,” said Lourdes Villela on Wednesday. “One of the paddles fell out, Hugo decided to go in for it.

“But the wind was really strong, so when he went into the water the boat kind of moved away from him.”

Read more: Rescue agencies say they’re ‘busier’, as COVID-19 sees more Albertans exploring their province

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Villela said Hugo Sr. instead tried to swim to the shore. She said he was close to the edge of the lake when he began struggling.

“We didn’t understand what was really happening,” she said. “When we realized that he was in fact asking for help, we tried to get to him in the boat, with the paddle that was left, but the wind didn’t allow us.

“Some people at the edge of the lake kind of saw him and tried to reach him. After a few minutes, one man with goggles found him, and with the help of [Hugo’s] son and other people there, pulled him out.”

Hugo Jr., 18, who pulled his father out of the water, said his father was familiar with the water.

Villela said she is in shock after the incident because of what a healthy, young person Hugo Sr. was.

“He was a good swimmer, he was a strong man. He was the kind of person who could do everything. He always found a way to do things.

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Hugo Escobedo Sr. is being remembered by his friends and family as a positive person who helped others. Supplied by family

Read more: Man pronounced dead after Mounties respond to possible drowning in Jasper National Park

‘Always willing to help’ new immigrants

Hugo Sr. is now being remembered by Edmonton’s Mexican-Canadian population as someone who was there for newcomers who immigrated.

“We met more than five years ago, when my cousin and I first moved to Canada,” Villela said. “We became really close friends. Hugo and his family helped my husband and I with everything, they guided us in our new life here.

The Escovedo family moved to Canada from Mexico and spent several years in Quebec before moving to Edmonton six years ago. Hugo Jr. said his father was always there for those who needed help adjusting.

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“I saw him help a lot of people, a lot of newcomers to Edmonton,” Hugo Jr. said. “He was really good with newcomers. He had such a big heart, he was always trying to help everyone. And he did help a lot of people. He always had that positive energy.”

The family is hoping to raise money through GoFundMe to help with funeral costs. Hugo Jr. also said his father previously ran a granite counter top business in the city along with his uncle, and that he will likely take over his father’s spot at the company at just 18.

Hugo Escobedo, who died earlier this month after an incident at Annette Lake, along with his wife Maribelle and son Hugo Jr. GoFundMe

“Be careful, it happened so quick. Pay attention,” Hugo Jr. said.

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“When I feel sad, when I remember what happened, I’m going to try to be a little like [Hugo Sr.].”
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