Two college students from Saudi Arabia drowned in Massachusetts after rushing into a river to rescue children, officials said. The incident occurred on June 29 when two small children were struggling to stay afloat in the Chicopee River in Wilbraham, according to the Hampden County District Attorney office.
Theeb Alyami, 27, and Jaser Daham Alrakah, 25, exchange students from Saudi Arabia, were among several adults who jumped in to help. The children survived and were discharged from an area hospital that evening, according to WBUR in Boston.
A dive team found the body of one of the students later that night, and police received a call on Monday reporting the body of the second students near a dam, officials said.
Both of the students came from Saudi Arabia to study engineering at U.S. universities. Aylami attended the University of Hartford in Connecticut and Alrakah recently transferred into Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The U.S. State Department expressed "heartfelt condolences" over the deaths, and said Alyami and Alrakah were among 52,000 Saudi students studying in the U.S. "The young men drowned while courageously attempting to save children in distress," spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. "Their heroism represents the very best of the international students who enrich communities across the United States."
The schools where the students had studied hailed their the actions by the students.
"By all accounts, he died coming to the aid of others," Western New England University said in a statement about Alrakah.
University of Hartford President Greg Woodward said Aylami's death was a "terrible loss" for the school community. "In the days ahead, we will work with Theeb's family to determine the most appropriate way to honor his memory," he said in a statement.
Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said his office is investigating the drownings.