(CNN) -- A Venezuelan governor and former minister of communications was found dead Saturday after a car accident, state media reported.
Willian Lara's vehicle rolled off a highway and into a river during heavy rains Friday afternoon, according to the state television network VTV.
His driver was rescued and told investigators he was able to pull the governor out of the wrecked vehicle, but Lara was swept away by the rising river, VTV reported.
Hundreds of police, firefighters and other rescuers searched for Lara for more than 12 hours. His lifeless body was found early Saturday morning, the Venezuelan state-run news agency AVN reported.
Chavez urged Venezuelans to follow Lara's example.
"Let us be like Willian, let us be like him until the last second of life," he said, according to AVN.
Lara served as minister of communications from 2006 to 2008 before being elected governor of the state of Guarica.
The accident happened near the city of San Juan de los Morros, some 80 miles south of Caracas.