The parents of a University of Texas at El Paso junior waited by the phone Thursday, hoping for good news from officials in Moab, Utah.
Wednesday afternoon, 21-year-old Waley Liang, was with a group of UTEP geology students when he fell into the Colorado River and was swept away.
Officials at the Grand County Sheriff's Office in eastern Utah said Liang fell as he tried to step onto an island in the river.
The group was across from the Gold Bar Recreation Area, an area frequently visited by hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Deputies said the students tried to save him but were unable to locate him.
What started as a search-and-rescue turned into a recovey effort Thursday evening.
The Grand County sheriff's report posted on the county website listed the incident as a drowning.
In El Paso, ABC-7 spoke with Liang's father, who was visibly upset, but said he remained hopeful.
"Everybody is still waiting," said Tony Liang. "I told (Waley) to be safe and he said, 'OK dad, OK dad.'"
Liang said he would be flying out to Utah Friday morning.
Waley had just started his junior year at UTEP after transferring from El Paso Community College.
"He's a good kid, a good son," said the elder Liang.
Liang said his son was always studying, but also dedicated time to his church.
Twice a week, the 2009 Franklin High School graduate gave rides to those in need to mass services.
In a statement released Thursday, UTEP President Diana Natalicio said, "...the University is doing everything possible to support the family and to assist the rest of the students who are on the trip."
The group of students were expected to return to El Paso on Thursday.
The students were accompanied on the trip by Jose Hurtado, Ph.D., associate professor of geological sciences, and an adviser to the Geology Club.
A parent of one of the students also went on the trip with the group.
Sheriff's officials said crews, divers and boatmen will continue to search for Waley's body over the next several days.