FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Korey Sarvas' astonishing talent for leaping off buildings and flipping his way along the streets of Fort Lauderdale landed him on dozens of YouTube videos that made him a parkour star.
Hundreds of his fans are now using those videos to express their grief after learning the 22-year-old Margate parkour standout drowned early Sunday trying to swim across the New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
"It wasn't until I saw this groundswell of support on Facebook and YouTube that I realized this huge impact Korey made on so many people's lives," said his father, Kerry Sarvas, on Monday.
For years, Sarvas not only embraced the obscure sport of parkour, but also became a leader who was featured earlier this year on G4 TV's "Jump City: Seattle." Sarvas also was prominently featured last month in a South Florida Sun-Sentinel video about the growing popularity of the sport, where enthusiasts flip and jump off park benches, rappel off walls and buildings, all during one continuous sprint.
Fort Lauderdale police received a call about 1 a.m. Sunday about a possible drowning on the New River behind the Cheesecake Factory, 600 E. Las Olas Blvd. They recovered Sarvas' body at about 5 a.m. Sunday. Police said an investigation is under way, but no foul play is suspected.
Longtime friend and parkour partner Alex Reyes, 19, said he joined Sarvas and a few others early Sunday after someone in their group finished working late downtown. The group began running around and practicing their sport before picking a spot by the river to rest. Reyes recalls that Sarvas announced he wanted to swim across the dark, cold river and spent about 15 minutes "psyching himself into it."
"He took off his shirt, gave me a high-five and jumped in," Reyes said in a telephone interview Monday. "Just a few seconds in, he was yelling, 'Oh my God! I am in trouble here.'"
Reyes and the others jumped into the river but couldn't get a good grip on Sarvas, who struggled against a strong current.
Reyes recounts the painful details in an emotional video he posted on YouTube on Monday.
"I was so close. He was right there. I could save him," a remorseful Reyes says in the video. "It sucks bad. Good people taken out of this world, taken out of this world for a better reason."
Monday, many took to YouTube and Sarvas' Facebook fan page to express their sense of loss. A highlights video featuring some of his parkour feats, titled "In Memory of Korey Salvas," was posted late Sunday. The video had more than 4,000 views one day later and more than 240 comments from people expressing their condolences from as far away as London and Turkey.
"Fearless and strong, accomplishing so much more in a short time than I could ever imagine," wrote one admirer.
Sarvas' father said Monday that memorial services were still being planned.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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