The water was peaceful. Until once shrill sound rang through the air. Angelia ran to the shore. Her fiancé, Brandyn, had just taken her daughter out for a paddle on the lake. He was a well-trained army vet. Angelia thought her child was in good hands. Until she saw the scene unfolding in front of her. She watched on, frozen in one place. The peaceful lake had suddenly become a lurid abyss.
Angelia Herrera didn’t think that day at the lake would turn out the way it did. She and her fiancé, Brandyn Mitchell, wanted to spend the day relaxing and enjoying the hot May weather. They also had some exciting news they wanted to share with their families! So, the pair rallied the troupes and went down for a day in the sun. But this idyllic day quickly turned into a nightmare.
Brandyn and Angelia had recently set a date for their wedding. "We were to be married next year. It was a surprise to our family we had not yet revealed,” said Angelia. Even though they were still to wed, they lived as a family already. Between the pair, they had four children. Their baby, Brandyn’s two children and Angelia’s daughter, Keira. Keira was the apple of Brandyn’s eye. But when they went swimming, this all changed.
Brandyn made a point of developing a strong bond with his fiancée’s 6-year-old daughter, Keira. Every day after work, he made sure to spend time with her. Even though his relationship with her mother was only a couple of years old, Keira already trusted Brandyn like a parent. So when they went to the lake that day, she knew who she wanted to go swimming with. But that was where things took a turn for the worse.
When they arrived at the lake on Saturday, May 19th, the family had a whole day of picnicking and games planned. But little Keira wanted to go out into the water. She didn’t know how to swim yet, but that didn’t matter. They had brought along a big floating device, so Brandyn and Keira went into the lake while Angelia stayed with the rest of the family on the beach. Angelia knew her daughter was in good hands, given Brandyn’s background.
The National Guard
Though Brandyn was only 25 years old, he was already a veteran of the armed forces. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Tennessee Army National Guard, where he served for six years before retiring and moving to Texas. Now he was in the process of enrolling in college to become a firefighter. “He wanted to be a firefighter because he wanted to save lives. Running in when everyone is running out,” Angelia said. Little did anyone know he would make use of those instincts that day.
Serving in the army had given Brandyn a sense of wanderlust. "We didn't travel much when he was growing up, so getting in the Army, that gave him the opportunity to go places," remembers Stacy Thompson, Brandyn’s mother. "They had him all kind of places. He used to look forward to getting deployed and that used to scare me to death." But he always came home safe and sound — until this day.
Brandyn and Keira were in the middle of the lake, floating and splashing around. Then, all of a sudden, Keira lost her balance and fell into the water. Brandyn tried to help her up from aboard the float, but she kept sliding back down. So he dove in himself, confident he could push her back up in no time. But it wasn’t as easy as he initially thought.
Keira, being a young girl, had started to panic and flail. Brandyn doubled his efforts, but he had started to lose steam. Finally, he managed to get her on the float and told her to hang on tightly and not let go. Now, though, it was time for him to get back on. Tired as he was, he pushed himself up. But then he slipped.
Angelia watched the scene unfold from the beach, thinking that Brandyn had everything under control. But when her fiancé failed to resurface after a few seconds, she began to fear the worst. She and the other adults in her family rushed into the water to retrieve Keira, who was now alone and adrift on the float. Brandyn, on the other hand, was nowhere to be found.
The Lewisville Texan Journal
The family called emergency services and soon the nearby Lewisville Fire Department sent a dive rescue team to the scene. Around three hours later, Brandyn’s body was found in the water. The whole family was shocked, not least of all his mother. "Being in the Army and all that, he could swim like a fish. That's why I can't understand what happened,” she told reporters while she made her way to Texas from her home state of Arkansas. But no one could deny that Brandyn died a hero.
"He was an amazing father," said Angelia of her late fiancé. "He was loved and will be missed. No matter what, he was a hero.” Everyone else who knew Brandyn agreed that he was as brave as they come. But his final heroic sacrifice isn’t the only thing that he will be remembered for.
Brandyn had a reputation for being a high-spirited guy who made friends everywhere he went and could make anyone laugh. "When he was around you everybody had a good time," said his mother. "He very seldom got mad. Things you think would make somebody upset he'd just brush off like, ‘Whatever.'" Now his family was left to pick up the pieces in his absence.
Now Angelia is grappling with the fact that they won’t get to do all the things she and Brandyn had planned. "His dream was to travel around the world,” she said. “We often dreamed of a honeymoon exploring Europe. He really just wanted to see the world through his own eyes, not just a picture.” But, for now, all that’s left to do is mourn and honor him.
On Monday, May 21st — two days after his untimely passing, friends and family of Brandyn Mitchell gathered in Pilot Point to conduct a candlelight vigil in his honor. "He had no problems shining as bright as he did,” said Angelia. ”Shortly put, he was an amazing man and I am lucky to have known him.”