(NBC) – A Georgia father on vacation with his family in Florida drowned after saving his 8-year-old daughter from a powerful rip current, authorities said Wednesday.
The tragedy unfolded at about 5:38 p.m. Tuesday as Thomas Zakrewski, his wife and daughter were strolling on Upper Captiva Island near Fort Meyers when “the mother, walking ahead of her family, glanced backward and discovered that her husband and 8-year-old child were struggling in the water,” according to a Lee County Sheriff’s Department statement.
“Immediately, the mother jumped into the water and the father managed to pass the child to her,” the statement continued. “Unfortunately, the father continued to struggle and disappeared into the water.”
Sheriff’s deputies, the Captiva Fire Department, the U.S. Coast Guard and numerous other rescuers scoured the coast looking for Zakrewski, 46, before his body was found Tuesday night, officials said Wednesday
“Rough waters and considerable wind” hampered the search, according to the sheriff statement.
Lee County Sheriff’s Sgt. Russell Park said powerful rip currents, like those that carried Zakrewski away, are not obvious to the naked eye.
“Pay particular attention to areas around sandbars,” Park told NBC affiliate WBBH. “The water is coming in and it’s got to go out somewhere but you can’t always see it.”
There was a rip current advisory in effect on Tuesday where the family had been strolling, according to the National Weather Service.
“Wait until the conditions improve, don’t risk it,” Park said. “It’s not worth risking anybody’s life.