Deaf “hero” presumed dead in Idaho after attempting river rescue

A Deaf man in Idaho, Keawe Pestana (34), is missing and presumed dead after he jumped into a rushing river to try and rescue three children and an adult who fell out of a canoe. 

His sister, Kealani, confirmed to “The Daily Moth” that he is presumed dead. 

The Idaho County Sheriff’s Office said yesterday in a Facebook post that this happened on Friday, April 26 at the Big Salmon river in Riggins. The children and the adult who fell out had life jackets on and made it to safety, but Pestana disappeared under the water. They said the river is very cold and dangerous, and that people should always wear a life jacket. 

Kealani said there were several days of searching by ground and air, but that the air searches has concluded. She said the sheriff’s department will drive along the river to check the area and have asked people in the area to share any information. The sheriff can’t send divers in because it is too dangerous with the water moving too fast. 

Kealani said it is very hard for her to believe that he is gone and not coming back. She said without a body, she still has hope that a miracle can happen. She said that they are still in shock and have a hard time believing this is really happening. 

Pestana was born and raised in Hawaii. His mother’s side of the family is from Idaho. 

Kealani shared a quote about her brother and sent me a video of him traveling in the Philippines. 

[Video clips of Pestana going on an adventure trip in a tropical setting]

“Keawe is the most selfless person I know. He is the first to lend a hand and truly has a heart of gold. This quality, his fearlessness and his bravery is exemplified in his decision to enter the river that day. I know without a shadow of a doubt that Keawe did not stop to think about himself for a single second. As is with all things in his life, the well being of others was his priority. Keawe is a hero.”

Alex: Thank you for sharing, Kealani. There were many messages of shock and grief posted by those in the Deaf community. 

Pestana has a sister, Kealani, and a younger sister who is 6.

Idaho County Sheriff’s Office:

Local news coverage: