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He Saved His Daughter, but Couldn't Save Himself

Thomas Zakrewski, caught in rip current, drowns off Florida beach
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 11, 2019 11:26 AM CDT
This undated photo provided by the Sanibel & Captiva Chamber of Commerce shows visitors on the West Gulf Beach on Sanibel Island in Florida.   (AP Photo/Sanibel & Captiva Chamber of Commerce/David Meardon Photography)

(Newser) – A leisurely stroll at the beach quickly turned into a nightmare for a Georgia woman, who watched Tuesday as her husband slipped beneath the waves. Six to eight relatives from Georgia were walking along a curved sandbar on the shore of Florida's North Captiva Island around 5:30pm when Thomas Zakrewski's wife, leading the group, turned around and saw her husband and 8-year-old daughter struggling in the water. "Allegedly, a family was playing in the surf when they became surrounded by tide forces that trapped them," Upper Captiva Fire Chief Jason Martin says, per CaptivaSanibel.com. All got out on their own except Zakrewski and his daughter. He was able to hand the child to his wife, who had rushed back to help, "but was then swept away in the outgoing rip tide," Martin says.

After four hours of searching, the 46-year-old's body was located about half a mile from where he was last seen. "We cannot stress enough the importance of being educated and cautious while swimming in rough conditions or walking on sandbars," says Captiva Island Fire Chief Jeff Pawul. "These are very favorable conditions for both rip currents and tidal currents around the pass." There have been 12 deaths attributed to rip currents in Florida so far this year, and 28 across the US, per the Fort Myers News-Press. The outlet reports a 37-year-old woman nearly drowned when she was caught in a rip current at Captiva's Blind Pass Beach on June 28. (A different stroll on the beach turned fatal, but not because of drowning.)

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