Father Drowns While Heroically Saving Daughters from Riptide in Florida: 'I Got You'
A 53-year-old father of four from Tennesee drowned during a family vacation in Florida while saving his daughters after they were swept into rough waters, WTSP reported.
On July 14, Fred Pepperman and his family were out for a day at the beach in Seacrest, Florida, when one of his daughters, Grace, 16, was caught in a riptide. Two of his other daughters — Olivia, 20, and Kathryn, 24, — went out to retrieve her, but were caught in the riptide as well, his wife, Julie Pepperman, told the news station.
Fred swam out to rescue the girls, using all of his might to bring them to the surface and onto a board another family member had brought out to assist in the rescue. While his daughters made it to safety, Fred fell unconscious and had to be pulled back to shore by a group of bystanders who then gave him CPR. He was later declared dead after being rushed to a local hospital, the outlet reported.
"Without him, three of mine definitely would be gone," Julie said of her husband's heroic actions. "It doesn't seem real."
"I just want people to know a lot of dads say they would do it, and he did it, so that's a dad," she continued.
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Fred's sister-in-law, Colette James, said the loving father's last words were ones of comfort to his daughters.
"Kathryn said, ‘Daddy, help me,' and he said, ‘I got you,' " she told Today of her brother-in-law. "Those were the last words he told her."
According to James, there were double red flag warnings issued before the tragedy occurred, but because the family is not familiar with the area, no one recognized what they meant.
The family started a GoFundMe page to help raise funds to put Fred's daughters through college. It has raised $3,500 since Tuesday.
"He was a family man and always made those around him feel welcomed and loved," reads the description on a donation page. "He lived for those around him and dedicated his life to being the most devoted spouse and father possible."
"He died for the greatest purpose in life, his children," the message continues. "Freddy will never be forgotten, but life will also never be the same without him."