The Short of It
William Moritz was on the beach with his 6-year-old daughter preparing for his father's funeral, when the little girl was swept away by the tide. He jumped into the ocean to save her, and ended up losing his own life.
The 28-year-old dad from Michigan had flown to Jacksonville, Fla., for a weekend memorial service at the beach for his dad. It was just hours before the ceremony when his daughter was sucked under water.
"A tide pulled Maddy into the ocean and he dived in to get her out," family friend Nicole Doherty wrote on a GoFundMe page set up to help with funeral expenses. "As a result of saving Maddy's life, he ultimately lost his."
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According to reports, when Maddy got close to the shore, someone on the beach pulled her to safety. Both the dad and daughter were rushed to a hospital, where William was pronounced dead. Maddy was later released.
"His daughter was his world and he always spoke of her with a sparkle in his eyes," Maddy's mom Magan said in a statement to WSB-TV Atlanta. "He took pride in being a father every day. Madelynn was his world. Such an amazing man who I now look to as my hero for courageously saving our beautiful daughter's life."
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How does something like this happen? According to Bill Horn, captain of Volunteer Lifesaving Corps of Jacksonville Beach, strong winds were pushing waves up to five feet high that day, which put swimmers at risk of being pulled into a rip current.
"You're in the thigh-deep water, and then you're suddenly waist deep, chest deep," he said. "It happens within 5 to 10 seconds sometimes."
Not surprisingly, after the incident, authorities urged people to stay out of the choppy water.
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We spend our summers at the beach, so this story really hit home for me. I am a nervous wreck every time my kids head out into the ocean, and I can't even begin to imagine how little Maddy feels right now about the loss of her father. My heart goes out to her, and I hope that one day, she will know what a true hero her dad was.