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California woman rescued after SUV drove into San Joaquin River dies in hospital

Mother who beat stage 4 cancer identified as woman who died after being saved from San Joaquin River
Mother who beat stage 4 cancer identified as woman who died after being saved from San Joaquin River 02:25

TRACY — The woman rescued by a good Samaritan who jumped into the San Joaquin River to save her has lost her life. A coroner identified her as 46-year-old Melanie Caligiuri of Patterson.

The mother is being remembered by her family as a hero after holding her 5-year-old daughter in her arms while calling for help as she stood on her car as it sunk into the San Joaquin River. 

"There was a floating car with a lady and daughter screaming for their lives because they were about to drown in the water," said Jorge Valladares, who witnessed it all happen.


Valladares' friend Eddie Gerardo Cervantes Lora jumped into the river and helped bring the little girl to safety and then went back for Caligiuri. 

"The last thing I seen is him give his last push to push them closer to the shore and then all of a sudden he got lost in the water," Valladares said. 

Caligiuri washed up on shore on her own, alive. On Tuesday, we learned she lost her fight in the intensive care unit of the San Joaquin General Hospital. 

In a GoFundMe, family members said she was always a fighter. She beat stage four colon cancer and had been in remission since July 2022. They said she also had a major surgery last month for a hysterectomy. 

They thanked the good Samaritans who helped during the horrific accident. 

"What he did was pretty heroic. Not too many bystanders would do that," said David Hamric, a Manteca District Ambulance paramedic.

Hamric was one of the paramedics who responded to the crash that day. 

"This was different," said Hamric. "It was a long way down to where the incident happened and getting down there was a challenge." 

Hamric has been collecting money to donate to Cervantes Lora's family. He and other first responders plan to be at the memorial service Thursday. 

Caligiuri and Cervantes Lora both leave behind three children and are described by loved ones as kind and compassionate. Both families have created GoFundMe pages that can be found here: Melanie Caligiuri and Eddie Gerardo Cervantes Lora.

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