In Florida for Dad's Memorial, Man Drowns Saving Daughter

William Moritz died saving 6-year-old caught in rip current
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 18, 2016 3:41 PM CDT
In Florida for Dad's Memorial, Man Drowns Saving Daughter
William Moritz and his daughter, Maddy.   (GoFundMe)

As a GoFundMe page set up in his honor notes, William Moritz died doing "what any great father would do": saving his young daughter. The 28-year-old Michigan man was in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., for his own father's memorial service, per Action News Jax, but a morning swim on Saturday turned tragic when his 6-year-old daughter, Maddy, got caught in rough waters and he dove in after her. When Maddy got closer to the shore, someone yanked her to safety, local cops tell ANJ; it's not clear how Moritz was recovered. Both Maddy and her dad were rushed to a nearby hospital, where Moritz was pronounced dead. Lifeguards said they had to rescue a few of people because of the rip currents and strong waves. "If you get in [a rip current] and you're in the thigh-deep water and then you're suddenly waist deep, chest deep, it happens within 5 to 10 seconds sometimes," the captain of the area's Volunteer Lifesaving Corps tells the station.

Moritz and his daughter were on the same beach where a memorial service for his dad, who had died a couple of weeks earlier, was to be held later that day; the service was canceled after Moritz's drowning. "As a result of saving Maddy's life he ultimately lost his," a family friend wrote on the GoFundMe page, which has so far raised more than $8,000 for a funeral and to bring Moritz's body back to Michigan. Those close to him aren't surprised at his heroic actions. "Bill was the most kind hearted selfless person I knew," Maddy's mother, Magan, wrote in a statement. "Always there for his friends and family. … His daughter was his world and he always spoke of her with sparkle in his eyes. He took pride in being a father everyday. … Such an amazing man who I now look to as my hero for courageously saving our beautiful daughters [sic] life." (A similar story with a twist, and a happier ending: a 5-year-old who saved her drowning mom.)

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