A North Carolina father of 7 died on Sunday as he heroically tried to rescue four of his children who were drowning in the rough waters of the state’s Wrightsville Beach.
Johnny Lee Vann, Jr., 35, was unable to be revived by rescue crews after being pulled from the ocean, despite 45 minutes of CPR, his wife Dawn Vann told WWAY.
“You couldn’t ask for a better person,” she told the ABC/CBS/CW-affiliate, adding that she was in shock and denial. “You could have took anybody else. I mean me personally, I would’ve preferred to take me than him.”
According to Dawn, her husband dove into the ocean to save their children seconds after they were swept away by the raging high tide waves.
They had been walking alongside a submerged jetty wall around 4 p.m. local time when they fell into the water.
“He never hesitated,” Dawn told WECT-6. “He threw everything down — phone, keys — and ran out there.”
Capt. Jason Bishop of the Wrightsville Beach Police Department told ABC News that Johnny was able to pull one of his children to safety but was unable to stay above the current after he dove back in for the second.
Bystanders and lifeguards on the beach ran to help, but Johnny insisted they save his kids first, Dawn told WECT-6. “They could’ve easily saved him,” she recalled. “He said, ‘Forget about me. Get my kids.’ He didn’t care about nothing else.”
After the children were safely on shore, emergency crews found Johnny submerged in the water, WECT-6 reported.
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SOURCE: PEOPLE, Dave Quinn