Melkin Cedillo worked close to 60 hours a week as a busboy at Iron Age Korean Steakhouse on Rockville Pike while trying to support his family, his manager recalled Friday.
Cedillo, a 19-year-old resident of Rock Creek Woods Apartments, died when his family’s basement apartment flooded Wednesday. The flooding damaged two apartment complexes and displaced more than 100 people in the Rockville area. Cedillo, who had been outside, went back in to the apartment in order to rescue his mother, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
A GoFundMe page to help the family raise money for his funeral had raised more than $40,000 as of Friday afternoon.
Vincent Vuong, a manager at Iron Age, told Bethesda Beat Friday that he first hired Cedillo to work night shifts while he was a student at Richard Montgomery High School. Later, Cedillo started working there full-time, he said.
Vuong said Cedillo was close with the other busboys at the restaurant, including a classmate at Richard Montgomery.
“He always bumped fists with the workers here,” Vuong said. He was always like, ‘Oh, I love you, man.’ And he was always curious about everything. He asked a lot of questions.”
Richard Montgomery Principal Alicia Deeny alerted the school community that the former student had died in the flood. Deeny wrote that counselors and school employees would be available to support students and employees.
“Our deepest sympathies are extended to the family of our former student. We are committed to helping our students and families through this challenging time,” she wrote.
Vuong said most of the restaurant’s busboys speak Spanish as their primary language, and know little English. He described Cedillo as “70%” fluent in English, which came in handy.
“Whenever I needed translation, I asked for his help,” he said.
Money that Cedillo earned from his job at Iron Age was a primary source of income for his family, Vuong said. The busboy frequently volunteered to worked extra shifts and would fill in whenever another employee took a day off, he said.
“We try to control the hours of the busboys, but I tried to give him more hours so he could make more money and support the family,” Vuong said.
Vuong said he managed Cedillo’s shift on Tuesday, and that the busboy worked until 5 p.m. even though his shift ended at noon.
The next day another manager at the restaurant called Vuong and told him about Cedillo’s death. He initially didn’t believe it.
“I thought there was a miscommunication between another busboy and [the other manager]. But he called again and confirmed,” he said.
About 20 employees work at Iron Age, said Vuong, who on Friday was working his first shift at the restaurant since Wednesday’s tragedy. The other employees have tried to avoid talking about their colleague’s death in the last couple of days because the topic is so emotional, he said. Cedillo’s closest colleague is taking a few days off to grieve, Vuong said.
“He liked to play around with the servers, making jokes and all that. Losing a member of our team. … It’s not just the position of busboy we’re losing. It’s like one of the family members,” he said.
Bethesda Beat staff writer Caitlynn Peetz contributed to this story
Dan Schere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org