20-year-old man drowns in Salt River on Sunday

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Taurean Lawler (Source: Friend's photo) Taurean Lawler (Source: Friend's photo)
Taurean Lawler and friends (Source: Friend's photo) Taurean Lawler and friends (Source: Friend's photo)
Taurean Lawler and friends (Source: Friend's photo) Taurean Lawler and friends (Source: Friend's photo)
SALT RIVER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

A Memorial Day weekend trip to the Salt River turns tragic after a man drowns trying to save his girlfriend.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has identified the victim as 20-year-old Taurean Lawler of Phoenix.   

MCSO says Lawler was attempting to swim across the Lower Salt River near the Sheep Crossing recreation site.

Lawler was apparently trying to cross the river from the south bank to the north bank. But approximately three-quarters of the way across the river, he  went underwater.  

Lawler’s friends say he saw his girlfriend struggling to swim, so he went in after her.

MCSO Lake Patrol deputies responded to the scene and searched the area where Lawler was last seen, but couldn't find him.

Utilizing a submersible search device, members of the MCSO Search and Recovery Dive Team located Lawler in about 14 feet of water, 25 feet down-current from where he initially went under.

Lawler’s body was pulled from the river just before midnight.

"I don't know how to deal with this. I still can't believe it. And it's hard when people ask, 'Are you OK?' or 'What happened?' because, you know, I saw it. I was there and I saw it," said Lawler’s girlfriend Kiara Lindsey. "If it wasn't for Taurean I probably wouldn't be here."

All this happening on Memorial Day weekend, the kickoff to the busy season on the water.

"Definitely keep a life jacket on at all times because you never know,” Shareef Daniel, one of Lawler’s friends. 

Based on witness statements and a preliminary overview of the body, MCSO  says foul play is not suspected in Lawler’s death.  

"[He’s a] wonderful dad. He has a one year old son, he's a hard worker, he was just all around a wonderful person,” said Breonna Foote Lindsey’s sister.

Lawler's family has set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for funeral expenses. Click here to donate.

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