Coroner confirms body found in LA River is missing boy Elias Rodriguez

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The family of Elias Rodriguez thanked for the public for their help in the search for the 14-year-old, who drowned in the Los Angeles River, and announced a vigil would be held for him Friday night.

"It's a painful time for his family, his friends, his school and this community, who quickly invested themselves in this ordeal," said Jessenia Vega, Eli's aunt.

She said a vigil would be held to honor Eli Friday at 7 p.m., starting at his school Cesar Chavez Learning Academy and moving along a lighted path to near the Pacoima Wash where he was believed to have been swept away.

"Through our great pain, we are very grateful," Vega said. "During this time when there is so much political strife in our country, we know that there is so much good in people and we want to continue that kind, caring spirit of love."

Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner officials confirmed Tuesday that the body recovered in the river on Saturday is Eli, who was reported missing more than a week ago.

Elias' death was ruled a drowning, coroner officials said.

The Sylmar boy had disappeared while walking to his grandmother's home after school in San Fernando during a powerful storm on Feb. 17. His route included crossing the Pacoima Wash, which leads to the area where a volunteer searcher found the body 18 miles downriver over the weekend.

"There is nothing more painful than the loss of a child, and the thoughts and prayers of all Angelenos are with the loved ones of Elias Rodriguez," Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement released Sunday morning. "Words cannot capture the agony that Elias' grieving family has felt since his disappearance."

The water running through the channel where Elias was found may seem harmless to many but fire officials said it's dangerous, even for the most experienced swimmers.

"The probability of stepping into that water and getting swept away is pretty much 100 percent," said LAFD Capt. Tom Henzgen.

Many students who also attend Cesar Chavez Learning Academies admit they've walked along the wash.

Henzgen said the fire department has rescued as many as 12 people in the channel in one year. He added that most people rescued are teens and have gotten help because someone else was around.

"When you're looking at this and you're thinking whether you're going to cross this in your car or you're going to cross it on foot, really, the slogan we're using is 'turn around, don't drown,'" he added.

Henzgen said during most of the year, the channel is a dry creek but there is a dam just above, which could let out water at any time.

A GoFundMe account was set up to help the family of Elias. To donate, visit
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