Chicago River survivor: 'I've never felt so helpless'; victims ID'd as Ken Hoang, Lauren Li

The survivor who lost two friends in the icy Chicago River is scheduled to be released from the hospital on Wednesday.
January 14, 2014 8:35:16 PM PST
The survivor who lost two friends in the icy Chicago River is scheduled to be released from the hospital on Wednesday.

PHOTOS: Chicago River rescue, recovery efforts

On Tuesday night, as he prepares to go home, college friends of the victims spoke with Eyewitness News.

Family members say the three were on a road trip to New Jersey but stopped in Chicago for a short visit. The lone survivor told police one of the victims, Ken Hoang, was taking photos of the river when he dropped his cellphone on to the ice. He stepped down to grab it and fell in.

It was just after midnight Monday when the emergency call came in. Authorities say 26-year-old Ken Hoang jumped the fence by the Chicago River after dropping his cell phone, then fell in.

His cousin Quoc Viet Phan Hoang and his girlfriend, 21-year-old Lauren Li, jumped in to save him.

Friends say it was a testament to how close they were.

"I would have jumped in and tried the best that I can but I mean the lengths you would go for your friends," said Phu Cao, friend.

On Tuesday night, Phan Hoang was still recovering in the hospital. He released a statement Tuesday that said, in part: "I lost two good friends. It's not easy seeing your friends drift away and having one die in your arms. I have never felt so helpless in my life. Thank you for everyone's thoughts and prayers."

Phan Hoang also thanked the first responders and Luis Bertrand, a man he calls his hero after he called 911 for help.

Hoang was a graduate of the University of Minnesota and Li was senior studying biology in the honors program.

"She was smart, sharp and quick," said Cao. "He was wise beyond his years and he took the time to learn about people."

There is a page set up to raise money to support the family of Ken Hoang who lost their brother, son and friend.

Additional information:
Ken Hoang Memorial Fund


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