Tragedy struck a Newnan family over the weekend as they vacationed with family and friends at Yellowstone National Park. Forty-six year-old Joel Fegarido was swept away in the Snake River and presumed drowned after jumping in the river to assist his 10 year-old son who was being pulled by the current.
Lincoln County, Wyoming, Sheriff Shane Johnson on Monday said volunteers launched a rescue effort to find Fegarido after he fell into the water near the Lunch Counter rapid in the Snake River Canyon, according to a report by the Jackson Hole Daily newspaper. Family members noted later that Fegarido jumped into the river to rescue his son.
The Star Valley Search and Rescue was dispatched and arrived immediately at the scene, said Fegarido’s brother-in-law Rob Wilkinson. Rescuers used swift-water rescue equipment and Teton County’s contract helicopter to search for Fegarido. Efforts to locate the man were unsuccessful, and the search and rescue effort is ongoing as is a recovery effort, Wilkinson said.
Speaking Wednesday, Pastor Dave Ketelsen of the Peachtree City Seventh Day Adventist Church in Sharpsburg said the Fegarido family’s church family was praying for them and helping them with anything they need. He said Joel was very active in the church.
Ketelsen said the family had been vacationing at Yellowstone with other family and friends whom Joel worked with at Delta Airlines.
Ketelsen said that when the incident happened last Saturday the group had stopped at a location along the Snake River. The family’s 10 year-old son had jumped from some rocks into the river. After saving his son, Fegarido was able to get the 10 year-old to a nearby rock where he was picked up by a kayak.
“At one point the current swept him. Joel instinctively jumped in,” Ketelsen explained. “A kayak was able to take the boy to shore, but Joel was swept downstream. They haven’t found him yet, but we still have a thread of hope.”
Nothing has been seen of Joel since that time, Ketelsen said Wednesday, adding that the family returned home to Newnan on Monday.
Ketelsen took time to comment on the man and his impact on his family and the community.
“I consider him not just a hero for saving his son, but also a hero as a father. He is a great guy,” Ketelsen said. “His walk in life has been a testimony to being a great father and a great citizen. He is the school board chairman of our church school and is very active in the church and in the school. He would just show up to help others. He never needed to be asked.”
Ketelsen the church is setting up a fund to provide assistance to the Fegarido family. Those interested in participating can contact the church at 770-253-8291 or the Delta Credit Union.