Services pending for father, daughter who drowned in area lake

Tamia John (center) and her father, Ben Nzavi (right). (GoFundMe photo)
Tamia John (center) and her father, Ben Nzavi (right). (GoFundMe photo)(KWTX)
Published: May. 20, 2017 at 4:00 PM CDT
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Funeral arrangements were pending Tuesday evening at Marshall & Marshall Funeral Directors in Hillsboro for Tamia John and her father, Ben Nzavi, who drowned during the girl’s 11th birthday celebration Saturday at Lake Whitney.

The girl was walking on a shelf beneath the surface Saturday when she stepped off a 30-foot drop off, Hill County Chief Deputy R.D. White said Monday.

Authorities received a report at around 11:30 a.m. Saturday that a child who was swimming in the lake at Cedar Creek Park went under, Chief Hill County Deputy Rick White said.

Nzavi, 36, went in to try to rescue her in what authorities described as a “heroic attempt,” but he also went under and did not resurface.

Their bodies were recovered on Sunday after a search that was hampered by conditions on the lake.

According to a posting on a GoFundMe page established for the family, Tamia was a fifth grader at Hillsboro Intermediate School and “was looking forward to the end-of-school activities.”

"Ben Nvazi worked as a ballistics engineer in Milford and ran a jail ministry in Hill County where he and his counterparts baptized more than 20 people during the last few months.

The two leave behind wife and mother Schivonne John, a high school teacher in Hillsboro who also has a 14-month daughter and is expecting a third child.

Friends are raising money for the family through the GoFundMe page as well as through the Church on the Hill in Hillsboro.

Counselors were available Monday at Hillsboro Intermediate School because of the deaths.

“HISD is grieving the loss of an intermediate student,” the district said in a message posted online.

“In the wake of this tragedy, counseling services are available for students and staff. Please continue to pray with us for the family, students and staff members most affected by this event.”

(Ke'Sha Lopez and Erin Zeller contributed to this story)