by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com
WRIGHTWOOD, CA — Judith Claridad still couldn’t believe that her husband is gone forever.
On Christmas Day, Judith and Claro Claridad celebrated with their four daughters by playing in the snow around Jackson Lake in the Angeles National Forest in Wrightwood.
After a few snowball fights and many snow angels later, the weather began to get colder. Claro asked his wife to change their two youngest kids, whose clothes were damp from playing in the snow.
“I went to our truck to change our two youngest daughters,” she recalled. “I was only gone for thirty minutes.”
She doesn’t know exactly what transpired in those “thirty minutes.”
“All I know is that there was a lot of commotion,” she said. “I thought it was just another snowball fight.”
As she headed back to her husband’s location, a woman approached her carrying their other two daughters.
She tried to go to the scene but was prevented from entering.
“Where’s my husband? Where’s my husband?” she remembers saying to the stranger.
She feared the worst.
The coroner’s report
In those thirty minutes, Claro Claridad died of hypothermia after falling into a frozen lake. He was saving other children who also fell in, according to the San Bernardino Coroner’s Report.
At about 2:30 pm on Christmas day, a few children playing in the frozen lake broke through the ice and fell into the water.
Claro Claridad, a 41-year-old US Army veteran, used his training to help the children. Wearing his nephew’s Christmas gift to him (a hat with a Philippine flag emblem and a thick jacket), he walked out on the frozen ice to assist the other adults and help the children who were in the water.
The others got out unharmed, but Claro tripped and fell into the water. He went under the surface and could not get out.
A rescue helicopter arrived to the lake. Divers located Claro Claridad after a short search nine feet below the surface.
During this time, rescue authorities allowed Judith to the scene.
She was optimistic.
They told her to head to Desert Valley Hospital, where he was being transported.
Authorities attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation. However, efforts to resuscitate him failed. He was pronounced dead at 5:05 p.m.
A coroner’s official said that authorities are investigating the incident.
Judith said that her family is still shocked and overcome with grief.
“Everybody is shocked. My daughters are in denial. I have to take them to counseling. They don’t want to believe it,” she said. “They were all daddy’s girls.”
His wife, Judith, describes her late-husband as the “perfect man.”
She recalls how they met. Judith, a preschool teacher, taught his niece.
“It was a blind date. We just clicked.”
The two were married eight years ago and blessed with four daughters ages seven, six, four and two. He also has a 12-year-old son from a previous relationship.
“He was good guy,” she said. “He was a perfect man, a good dad who devoted his time and every single minute to them. During the summer he would take a week off for family vacations. He treated me like a queen.”
Claro Claridad was born in Manila, Philippines. He served in the US Army before settling in Victorville. He was a manager at a Verizon Wireless store.
Judith said it doesn’t surprise her that he helped those kids who fell in the lake. She said her husband is a hero.
“I know he knew what he was doing,” she said. “He was a good swimmer in the Army. He was trying to save those kids. He just always kept helping people. He risked his life trying to save those kids. By accident he slipped and fell in the lake.”
Friends of Claridad have established a fund to care for his wife and children. He leaves behind wife, Judith, and five children.
Judith Claridad & Children Fund
Account Number: 340 313 5523
Contact: Heather Allgood