A father of seven who urgently tried to save two of his children who were swept away by strong waters at a state beach, died during the ill-fated rescue effort.
On Sunday, Johnny Lee Vann Jr., of North Carolina found himself in troubled waters at Wrightsville Beach near Wilmington when his children were swept off a jetty wall and whisked away in the ocean.
Vann reportedly saved one child and but struggled to stay afloat when he went back to recover the second child, according to Capt. Jason Bishop of the Wrightsville Beach Police Department told ABC News.
Vann and the other child were subsequently rescued but the brave father was reportedly underwater for 30 seconds and could not be resuscitated.
“We came from church and we went to the beach to have fun. We wound up having a tragedy. You couldn’t ask for a better person,” the victim’s wife Dawn Vann told WWAY.
“You could have took anybody else,” she said. “I would’ve preferred to take me than him.”
“He never hesitated,” Dawn said about her husband’s heroic rescue efforts. “He threw everything down – phone keys and ran out there.”
Dawn said when people noticed that Vann was having difficulty, he told them, “Forget about me. Get my kids!” He didn’t care about nothing else,” she recalled. “They could’ve easily saved him,” she said explaining that he wanted them to focus on saving their children.
“My dad always tells us, “You all are going to be together forever,”‘ said Vann’s daughter Kierstyn.
“His spirit is still alive and we’re all going to remember him as a hero,” she said.
The family has set up a GoFundMe to help pay funeral costs.