A father-of-seven is being remembered as a hero after he died while saving four of his children from rough waters.
Dawn Vann was enjoying North Carolina’s Wrightsville Beach with her husband, 35-year old Johnny Lee Vann Jr., and their seven children. However, things took a turn for the worse when four of their kids became overwhelmed by rough waters.
According to reports, the family had been walking alongside a submerged jetty wall in the late afternoon when several of their kids fell into the water and were swept away by the rising waves. Johnny immediately jumped into the water after them.
While the heroic father was able to pull one of his kids to safety, the water overpowered him when he went back for his second child. Bystanders and lifeguards initially tried to help Johnny since he was closer to land, but he insisted they focus on rescuing his kids.
“They could’ve easily saved him,” Dawn told media outlets afterwards, People reports. “He said, ‘Forget about me. Get my kids.’ He didn’t care about nothing else.” She added, “He never hesitated. He threw everything down — phone, keys — and ran out there.”
Although all of the Vann children were successfully rescued, it was unfortunately too late for their father once he was recovered from the ocean. First responders applied CPR for 45 minutes before declaring him deceased at the scene.
“You couldn’t ask for a better person,” his wife added. “You could have taken anybody else. I mean me personally; I would’ve preferred to take me than him.”
A GoFundMe page has since been created to support Dawn and her seven children during this difficult time. According to the page, the funds will go towards relocation expenses, funeral costs, and potential grief counselling costs for the family. The Vanns had recently moved to North Carolina from Detroit, Michigan, but are hoping to have Johnny’s body returned to his home state s he can be buried beside his mother.
His family, who recently moved from Detroit, Michigan, to Durham, have since started a GoFundMe page to help pay for a number of expenses, including potential grief counseling, relocation expenses, and funeral costs of moving Johnny back home to Detroit to be buried next to his mother.
The page adds that the father is survived by three brothers, a sister, and his father, “Johnny was known to his family and friends as a pillar of jovial spirit,” the description reads. “His smile could light up any room and was guaranteed to put a smile on your face.”