A 35-year-old father died while trying to save his children from rough waves at the beach.
Johnny Lee Vann Jr. had rushed to rescue two of his children when they were caught in the water at Wrightsville Beach in South Carolina on July 14.
The children had reportedly been walking on a submerged jetty wall when they were swept into the sea by a wave.
Captain Jason Bishop, of the Wrightsville Beach Police Department, told ABC News the father rescued one of his children but when he went back into the water to save his other child he struggled to stay above the water.
Witnesses at the scene said Johnny was underwater for about 30 seconds before he and the other child were found and brought in from the water.
In a statement released on Monday (July 15), Wrightsville Beach town officials said rescuers performed CPR on Vann but he could not be resuscitated.
A fishing charter captain named Andre Nel was on the beach on Sunday when the tragic incident occurred at around 4pm. Speaking to WWAY News, Nel said he knows the area well and explained the jetty wall is dangerous in high tide but there are not enough warning signs about it, as two signs were blown away in Hurricane Matthew and never replaced.
Wrightsville Beach town manager Tim Owens says it is the responsibility of the Army Corps of Engineers to replace the signs.
Nel also believes the nearest lifeguard stand is too far away from the water.
The witness recalled seeing Johnny sprint towards the beach, adding:
He dove into the water and went straight for the kid that was in the water.
There needs to be a lifeguard station right here. If there was a lifeguard station right here yesterday, this would not have happened.
When he saw the father struggling in the water, Nel called the emergency services.
Johnny’s widow, Dawn, spoke to WWAY News about her husband, who was training to become a minister, and echoed Nel in saying the jetty wall is not safe.
You couldn’t ask for a better person, you could have took anybody else. I mean me personally, I would’ve preferred to take me than him.
Either they need to make [the wall] taller or take it out the water completely, because it’s still dangerous.
The family has started a GoFundMe to help raise money for Johnny’s funeral.
The page reads:
Johnny was known to his family and friends as a pillar of jovial spirit. His smile could light up any room and was guaranteed to put a smile on your face. His family recently moved to North Carolina to secure a better quality of life and was excited for the start of a new chapter.
Our thoughts are with Johnny’s friends and family at this difficult time.
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