MOLINE, Illinois — Two United Township High School seniors will be honored by the Moline Police Department at the UTHS versus Moline volleyball game on Thursday, Sept. 14, for their selfless actions that saved the life of a six-year-old Galesburg boy.
On June 16 this year, students Van Thang and Riley Gomez were hanging out along the Mississippi Riverfront along Ben Butterworth Parkway when they heard a commotion in the water. Malik Williams of Galesburg had jumped into the rushing current to try and save his six-year-old son, who had fallen in while the pair were fishing.
Gomez dialed 911 while Thang jumped in to help the boy.
“Neither of them could swim,” Gomez said. “The fiancée was yelling, ‘Neither of them could swim!’ He was panicked, as I saw him jump in the water he was trying to grab his son, but then, he was drowning.”
Thang was able to grab the child, but the force of the water made rescuing Williams impossible.
“The water was too deep, so I was afraid I would drown too,” Thang told WQAD the night of the incident.
Remarkably, Moline Police said in a press release announcing their intention to honor Thang and Gomez, Thang sprang into action despite not knowing how to swim himself.
In addition to calling authorities, Gomez also managed to capture an image via her photography that the family of Malik Williams will cherish forever. She took a haunting picture of father and son sitting on the dock at sunset, bonding over their love of fishing. That image was shared on the Moline Police Department Facebook page and went viral around the world, appearing in international media such as: People, Yahoo news, Time and Inside Edition, The Sun and The Daily Mail.
A ceremony honoring the two students is part of the annual “Law Enforcement Appreciation Night, United We Stand” hosted at UTHS. The volleyball game is scheduled for 7 p.m.