Father’s last promise… ‘I got you’

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Heroic father rescues his daughters from a rip current. Sadly, he dies moments later.

The Pepperman family from Tennessee were on vacation in Florida when tragic struck. Fred Pepperman, 53, and his three daughters got caught in a rip current.

It all started when the youngest daughter Grace, 16, yelled, “Help me daddy!”

Well, Fred and his two other daughters Olivia, 20, and Kathryn, 24, all rushed to help Grace. Fred even yelled out “I got you” before making sure all three girls were safely rescued and brought back to shore.

Then just moments later, Fred fell unconscious. CPR was performed, but they weren’t able to revive him. He was later pronounced dead at the local hospital.

This tragedy happened on July 14th when Tropical Storm Barry was headed toward Louisiana. Double red flags had been posted that weekend, which means the water is closed to swimmers.

But these double red flags were not flying where the Pepperman family was vacationing. They were at a private beach.

Fred’s wife, Julie, says there were no signs of the beach being closed or of any danger. She said there were waves but didn’t notice any rip currents. She also says there were other people in the water too.

The married couple had just celebrated their 28th wedding anniversary.

When it comes to rip currents, experts say panic is what usually drowns people. The current will not pull you under. In fact, usually the water moves you away from the shore and then will circle you back close to the beach.

In the United States, rip currents kill more than 100 people each year.

The best way to survive a rip current is to avoid it altogether. You learn to spot them. Telltale signs include bits of debris or a line of foam moving seaward, a channel with fewer breaking waves and what looks like a river of darker water wedged between the white breakers.

If you get caught in one though, try to wave an arm and yell for help. Don’t swim against the current. Instead, calmly tread water.

If you see someone caught in a rip current, assess the situation. If you have to get in the water and go after the person, make sure someone else is calling 911 or getting a lifeguard. Make sure you take a float with you in the water or something buoyant.

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