FRAMINGHAM — A dramatic, heartbreaking scene played out early Sunday as a 21-year-old man died frantically trying to free his girlfriend and sister after their car plunged into a small pond, the survivor of the crash told authorities.
The man, Brian Archila, and his 25-year-old sister, Jennifer Archila, both of Framingham, died in the overturned vehicle, officials said Monday. A second passenger, identified as Brian’s girlfriend, 21-year-old Lilibeth Vasquez, also of Framingham, though injured in the accident, survived because she was able to breathe through an air pocket in the back seat and hold on until rescuers arrived about three hours after the crash.
Vasquez, whose injuries were not considered life threatening, told firefighters that all three initially were alive. Then Brian ducked under the water inside the vehicle in an attempt to get them out.
“[Vasquez] told us he went to open the door and never came back,” said Captain Mark Leporati, who was the commanding officer for the Framingham Fire Department at the rescue scene.
Near the pond Monday afternoon, Apolonia Archila clutched a portrait of Jesus and wept near where two of her grandchildren perished after fighting to stay alive. There were still broken bushes and tire marks visible in the road, near a golf course.
“They were good kids,” she said through a translator. “I will always remember them as the amazing grandchildren they were. . . . They were very happy.”
Leporati said that when first responders got to the pond to remove the car around 7 a.m. Sunday, they found only Vasquez alive.
“There was no report of anyone being in the car, so we had no apparatus coming,” he said. “But as we approached, we could hear someone calling for help, and we knew it wasn’t only a submerged vehicle.”
Angel Chilin, a cousin of the Archila siblings, who was also at the pond Monday, said Vasquez was released from the hospital with “a scratch.”
Chilin said the survivor told the family the trio was on their way home from a party in Hudson when the car went off the road and flipped into the pond around 4 a.m. She recounted Brian Archila’s attempt to get them out.
“Brian died trying to break through the window and save them,” Chilin said.
Leporati, the fire captain, said that once authorities had hoisted the two-door Honda Accord out of the pond, he noticed that the side air bags were deployed and blocking the lock handle.
“They did everything together,” Chilin said, referring to the siblings. “I guess it’s fitting they died together.”
Framingham Police Lieutenant Stephen Cronin said the bodies of Brian and Jennifer Archila were found in the front seat. Police have not said what caused the crash; the investigation is continuing.
The accident site is adjacent to the Framingham Country Club, near the intersection of Country Club Lane and Gates Road.
A golfer alerted authorities to the submerged car around 7 a.m., and Leporati said firefighters and first responders arrived within minutes. They worked hard to rescue the survivor, and dislodged Vasquez about an hour after hearing her calling for help.
He praised the work of the team of 15 and specifically mentioned Firefighter Trevor O’Leary, who held Vasquez’s hand for more than 40 minutes to comfort her during the rescue.
Other family members at the scene described Brian and Jennifer Archila as inseparable and “full of life.”
Their aunt, Carmen Archila, who was also in tears, said they would always be a part of her life.
“I’ll always remember their happiness,” Carmen Archila said
Throughout the day, family members and friends intermittently came together at the crash site to mourn, inspect the pond, and leave encouraging messages on a memorial poster.
At times, the heartbreak was countered as someone would remember a funny story or anecdote. However, as they walked to the edge of the water, the weight of the tragedy loomed large.
“These were their mother’s only two children,” Chilin said. “And they had a ton of friends.”
Jennifer Archila worked for the Newton-based travel website company TripAdvisor, her family said.
Brian, according to his confirmed Facebook page, was a laborer at Natick Soldier Systems Center and at Market Basket.
On the memorial, friends left encouraging words.
“You were always the brightest part of my day,” a person wrote about Jennifer. “There was no one I enjoyed talking to more. I have never met anyone with the bright light that you have.”
And of them both: “You will always be loved and remembered.”
Globe correspondent Aneri Pattani contributed to this report. Astead W. Herndon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.