A family is remembering their father as a hero after he drowned while saving his three daughters from a dangerous riptide.
The family, which originally hails from Tennessee, was visiting a Seacrest, Florida beach while on vacation. 53-year old Fred Pepperman was watching his daughters enjoy in the waves when his youngest, 16-year old Grace, got overwhelmed by a riptide.
Immediately, his oldest two girls, 20-year old Olivia and 24-year old Kathryn, jumped into the water to save her. However, it wasn’t long before they were also caught in the same riptide. According to People, this is when the father dove into the water himself to save his daughters. He managed to bring all of them to the surface and used a surfboard to help get them back to shore.
Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse while the father and daughters were trying to make it back to land. While the girls safely made it, their father was overcome by the tumultuous waves. According to his wife Julie Pepperman, he fell unconscious before he could finish swimming to shore.
Onlookers were able to eventually get the father-of-three out of the water. While onshore, bystanders administered CPR to him before rushing him to hospital. Despite their best efforts, however, Fred was pronounced dead at the hospital.
“Without him, three of mine definitely would be gone,” his wife told media outlets following the tragedy. “It doesn’t seem real.” She added, “I just want people to know a lot of dads say they would do it, and he did it, so that’s a dad.”
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Fred’s sister-in-law, Colette James, also revealed what his last words were to his daughters. “Kathryn said, ‘Daddy, help me,’ and he said, ‘I got you,’” she said. “Those were the last words he told her.” She added that, while there had been warning signs in the area about the dangerous conditions of the water, the family were unaware of what they meant.
“He was a family man and always made those around him feel welcomed and loved,” a GoFundMe page set up by the Pepperman family read. “He lived for those around him and dedicated his life to being the most devoted spouse and father possible.”
The GoFundMe page is currently raising money to send Fred’s daughters to college. It has raised nearly $4,000. “He died for the greatest purpose in life, his children,” the website added. “Freddy will never be forgotten, but life will also never be the same without him.”