SALINAS, Calif. - UPDATE 7/26/2017 2:22 p.m. A Salinas man on life support in Italy has died.
According to Marisa Merkle, her dad, R.C. Schwertfeger has passed away after a near-drowning incident occurred on July 10 in Italy.
Schwertfeger's family had been trying to raise money to bring him home to Monterey County ever since the accident.
"Our family was blessed to share in his last moments upon this earth to express our love and gratitude for everything he did to help us become the people we are today. As we were leaving the ICU, the department head told us to remain at the hospital as it appeared his passing was imminent. Shortly thereafter, we were told that our beloved father, husband, and Agape had died. His heart, overflowing with love for so many, was finally able to enjoy the rest that has eluded him these last two weeks," said Merkle. "The outpouring of love, support and prayers from those near and far, family, friends and strangers, has been a source of strength and comfort for which we will forever be grateful and treasure. It has truly been a beacon during our darkest days."
"We thank you and we ask that you continue to hold R.C. in prayer. We also ask that you continue to hold us in prayer during the days ahead as we prepare to bring R.C. home," said Merkle.
A family on the Monterey Peninsula says they are heartbroken after a trip to Italy left a Salinas man on life support.
Marisa Merkle said her dad, R.C. Schwertfeger is currently in a vegetative state in an Italian hospital after suffering a near-drowning while swimming with his wife and grandchildren on July 10.
"My mom pulled him from the water and fellow swimmers began attempts to resuscitate him on the pool deck," said Merkle on her gofundme fundraiser page.
Merkle's parents had been in Italy celebrating their 43rd wedding anniversary and to visit their daughter.
Multiple tests and CT scans have indicated Schwertfeger suffered massive brain damage. Family members said his brain is functioning to a small degree however he is in a vegetable state.
“There’s no medical reason they can find for what happened to my dad,” said Merkle. "We are living a nightmare that we pray no one else has to endure. To witness a strong, healthy, vibrant, intelligent man reduced to this is heartbreaking beyond words. Adding to this pain is the difficulty in getting him home."
The family has since created a gofundme page to raise money to bring Schwertfeger home to Monterey County. The family said in order to bring him home they must pay for an international flight in an air ambulance. The family has been quoted a minimum of $137,000 for the flight and crew.
"The total fee needs to be paid up front before they will even begin to coordinate with the hospital," said R.C.'s wife Mimi.
Back on the Central Coast his friends are shocked and devastated, doing what they can to raise the money.
"They're basically living a nightmare now in a foreign country on top of that,” said family friend Erika Yanez. “We just want to do whatever we possibly can to help them. I just want to ask the community for their help."
Solomon Terry has been a friend of R.C.’s for 53 years.
"He's a wonderful guy, he taught school for over 30 years," said Terry.
Terry said R.C. was a football and baseball coach, who swam at the Monterey Sports Center twice a day.
"Great swimmer,” said Terry. “So we know he probably had a medical event or something that caused him to have his problem with the water."
"We need to get him home and out of this situation," said Merkle.