The following article is reprinted from Arab News. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be much at all written about this story in the American press. This young man died a hero, and America should hear about it.
PLEASE READ THE UPDATE TO THIS STORY BELOW.
Mourners hail Saudi's heroic act in US
By MUHAMMAD AL-SULAMI | ARAB NEWS
Published: Apr 26, 2011
JEDDAH: A large crowd attended in Jeddah on Monday the burial of Mashari Abdul Mohsen Al-Siraihi, a 21-year-old who drowned in a lake in Ohio last week after rescuing an American child.
Al-Siraihi, born in 1990, was studying electronic engineering in the University of Akron. His body arrived at King Abdulaziz International Airport on Sunday.
Al-Siraihi and his friend George Raresheid III, 46, of Lake Township drowned in a cold water reservoir in West Branch State Park, Ohio, in a weather-triggered accident on April 17.
Though saddened by the untimely death of the young Saudi man, mourners were proud that he gave his life for another and described him as a real hero.
Speaking to Arab News, the mourners were unanimous in their view that Al-Siraihi’s heroic deed was enough proof for Americans to realize that Saudis are a peace-loving people who uphold moral and humanitarian values.
They said his deed was no strange act to Muslims, who love others regardless of their race, color or creed.
Nasser Al-Siraihi, a relative of the deceased, said he was deeply saddened by the death.
“Though we are sad, we are also proud that Mashari was able to save the American child, who was the son of his friend,” he said.
Muhammad Hamdan Al-Sirahai, Mashari’s uncle, expressed similar sentiments and said he saved a child who was not from his race or religion.
“Mashari was able to project the true picture of Islam. He was a hero who died saving others,” he said.
Naif Al-Siraihi, another uncle, who is a master’s degree student in the US and who accompanied the body back home, said his nephew was sailing with his American friend and his son Michael, 13, in the lake when their 14-foot flat-boat fishing boat capsized in bad weather.
He said Al-Siraihi swam with the child to the shore and went back into the water to rescue the father but could not. He finally succumbed to the water.
He said when American rescuers reached the scene it was too late and both men died.
Naif Al-Siraihi, who shared the same room with Mashari, said the search for his body continued into the next day. “After 20 hours of searching using helicopters, Mashari's body was found near the shore,” he said.
Al-Siraihi's relatives and friends who received the body at the airport said amid tears that his heroic deed would live long in the memory.
UPDATE: Apparently there are two versions to this incident - the way Arab News chose to report it on April 26 with Al-Siraihi dying as a hero, and the version published on April 18 in the CantonRep.com whereby the American boy who survived was the actual hero. Another issue is the fact that the CantonRep reported that Al-Siraihi was in fact the boyfriend of the daughter of the other man who drowned. This was completely omitted in the Arab News article - because good Saudi boys/heros don't have girlfriends. I believe Arab News has intentionally hoodwinked its readers, myself included. And I'm not happy about it.