N.C. Father Selflessly Rushes Into Water to Save His Children from Powerful Current, Dies a Hero

A North Carolina man is being remembered for his act of love.

Witnesses say Johnny Lee Vann Jr., 35, “didn’t hesitate” to jump into action when he noticed three of his kids struggling in rough waters at Wrightsville Beach in New Hanover County on Sunday.

Johnny Lee Vann Jr.
Dawn Vann said her husband Johnny Lee Vann Jr. (right) sprang into action when he noticed some of his children struggling in the water at the beach. (WNCN News / video screenshot)

According to police Capt. Jason Bishop, witnesses said there were “three children on the jetty wall that got swept away by a wave,” the New York Daily News reported. That’s when Vann went rushing in after them.

“He never hesitated,” Vann’s wife, Dawn Vann, told WNCN News. “He threw everything down – phone, keys and ran out there.”

Dawn said her husband was able to get to two of the children safely, but went under while trying to retrieve the third one. Several others beach-goers jumped in to help him, but Dawn said her husband’s only concern was for their children.

“They could’ve easily saved him. He said, ‘Forget about me. Get my kids,’ ” she recalled Johnny saying. “He didn’t care about nothing else.”

A bystander eventually rescued the pair, bringing Vann and his child to shore. Attempts to resuscitate Vann were unsuccessful, however, and the father of seven passed away. 

Officials said the devoted father was submerged for 30 to 45 seconds while trying to rescue his kids, and a medical examiner later ruled his death was the result of drowning.

Vann’s wife and children said they’ll never forget their dear dad.

“His spirit is still alive,” his daughter Kierstyn said. “And we’re all going to remember him as a hero.”

Watch more in the video below.

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