|Relatives and friends offer support to the grief-stricken mother of Ren Wei at a memorial service in Xingtai, Hebei province, on Wednesday. Ren, 16, died on Saturday when rescuing a drowning man. (China Daily/Huang Tao)|
Thousands of Xingtai residents came to the streets with white flowers on a chilly Wednesday, bidding farewell to a young hero who died trying to rescue a drowning man.
The city in Hebei province showed its respect for teenager Ren Wei. Residents came to mourn and donate more than 200,000 yuan ($32,000) to the family that lost its only child.
"Their help to us did warm my heart," said Zuo Qiaoxia, mother of the fallen hero.
"I would like to try my best to help others in return."
Li Lin and Ren, both 16, went out together to play along the Qili River on Saturday afternoon.
They saw a man in his 50s riding a bicycle on the frozen river when the ice suddenly broke, and the man plunged into the chilly water.
They immediately ran to rescue him and Ren managed to catch his hand.
"I caught Ren's hand, but the thin ice broke again," Li recalled at a hospital on Wednesday.
Li called for help after Ren fell into the river and tried to rescue both at the same time.
But he failed to save them, and the three were submerged in the icy water.
Several minutes later, a team of policemen on patrol got them all out of the water.
But the man and Ren died. Li was sent to a hospital.
Their bravery got them awards from the city, which listed them as moral models, and a reward of 10,000 yuan was given to each family.
"It's too hard to accept the fact that my best friend has died," said Li, who was accompanied by his father at the memorial.
Li Jianhua, the father of Li Lin, praised his son's bravery, saying that although his son almost died in the rescue, he would support him saving others next time.
"It's right to help others in need," he said. "But he should learn smart methods in rescue."
His son stood on the ice when he caught Ren's hand, the father said.
"He needed to know it's the wrong way, and he needed to get down and lie on the ice."
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