FREER, Texas — A Texas family has been surrounded by an outpouring of support after a tragic loss.
On Monday, August 5th, Irma Barrera, Roy Perez and their 15-year-old daughter were swimming near Bambarra Beach in Turks and Caicos. What was supposed to be a relaxing vacation quickly turned tragic when Barrera and Perez drowned in swift water. They were reportedly in the water with another man and his daughter.
Commissioner of Police Trevor Botting said all three adults died while the two girls survived.
Perez and Barrera, along with their three daughters, lived in Lake Jackson. However, Perez was born and raised in Freer, Texas.
"Typical small-town boys, you know, taking road trips, listening to country music," Eloy Vasquez, a long-time friend of Roy said.
Vasquez and Perez both graduated from Freer High School in the early 2000's. He said even though they both moved away and started families of their own, the two always remained in touch. Family members said Irma, from Zapata, Texas and Roy met 12 years ago.
"Those are the friend's people wish they had because it was never a dull moment with them," he said.
When the news broke that Roy and Irma had died, word traveled fast throughout Freer. Vasquez said they instantly knew they had to help.
"We get together and make sure to find a way that everyone remembers them," he said.
Roy's cousin, Moses Reyes, said not only are they grieving the loss, but family members are also faced with an expensive task: returning the couple's bodies to the U.S.
"It means a lot to the family to get them home and to you know say our goodbyes," Reyes said.
It's estimated that it will cost nearly $50,000 to preserve and return the couple. That includes giving them a proper burial and funeral service.
"I think I personally have a sense of relief since we raised so much money to at least get their bodies, you know, to the states you know, and to be with the loved ones, truly from the bottom of my heart just truly appreciative," Reyes said.
The couple's 15-year-old daughter was flown back to Ft. Lauderdale in Florida, to meet up with her aunt and return to Lake Jackson. Reyes said the officials in Turks and Caicos paid for her flight home.
Reyes and Vasquez said the money raised and support is living proof of a strong community and the lasting impact Roy and Irma had on everyone they met.
"I just want her family and his family to know that we're here," Vasquez said.
To support the Perez-Barrera family during this time, visit their GoFundMe.
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