Two families’ day of fun quickly turned tragic when six teenagers at the gathering drowned in a Louisiana river on August 2.

According to the Associated Press, the outing began as a typical family get-together with a large group of relatives and friends. The children waded in Shreveport, La.’s Red River to beat the heat as adults were planning to prepare food. But tragedy struck before they were even able to fire up the grill.

DeKendrix Warner, 15, one of the teens splashing around in the river, slipped off a ledge and plunged into water nearly 25-feet deep. As the teen struggled, a cousin attempted to rescue him, but slipped on the same ledge. More relatives and friends tried to help in the rescue, but none could swim. The teens were thrown one life vest, but none could reach it.

Relatives looked on in horror as each teen fell victim to the river’s ferocity. None of the victims’ families could swim either.

“It’s hard when you can’t save your kids,” Maude Warner, whose three children were among those who drowned, told KTBS TV. “It’s hard when you just see your kids drowning and you can’t save them.”

Fortunately, 22-year-old Christopher Palin was hanging around near the river with his friends and ran towards the teens after hearing their screams. He jumped in and was able to rescue Warner but by the time he escorted the teen to safety, the others had vanished.

“The river is a dangerous place. Its no place to even put your foot in you don’t know how to swim,” Shreveport Fire Chief Brian Crawford told the AP. Authorities first responded to a 6:30 p.m. report of a single drowning among the youths. All of the bodies were recovered by 10:30 p.m.

The dead included Takethia Warner, 13, JaMarcus Warner, 14, JaTavious Warner, 17 Litrelle Stewart 18, LaDairus Stewart, 17 and Latevin Stewart, 15.

New data from the USA Swimming Foundation shows that 69 percent of African-American children have no swimming ability, compared to 41.8 percent of their White counterparts.

The foundation believes apprehension towards swimming is passed down from generation to generation in Blacks, and the need to get lessons is not stressed. They also cite limited access to swimming pools and lack of funds for classes as other reasons why many Blacks are not able to swim.

According to Jacksonville, Fla.’s WJXT, many YMCAs in Florida are trying to break the cycle by incorporating free swim lessons into their camp programs and giving special attention to non-swimmers.