Kentucky father dies trying to save children from deadly rip current during family vacation in Florida
Stephone Ritchie Sr. was on vacation with his family when he decided to drive to Cocoa Beach on October 27
A Kentucky father reportedly died while trying to save his three children from a riptide on a Florida beach.
Stephone Ritchie Sr. was on vacation when he decided to drive to Cocoa Beach on October 27. As reported by Daily Mail, over 20 of his family members traveled to the beach, including five of Ritchie's six children—four boys, and one girl. His cousin, Elishia Durrett-Johnson said that three of his sons immediately went into the water. She told Fox News there were no signs posted of a dangerous rip current in the area.
The family had been on the beach for 15 minutes and the kids were in the water when panic set in. When Ritchie's sister Amber started worrying about how far the children were, Ritchie assured her they were okay.
"Hey Sis, we got this, they know what they're doing, they can swim," he originally told her, according to Durrett-Johnson. When they continued to drift further away, a worried Ritchie reportedly went out to save his sons before getting caught in the waves.
"A wave caught him, there were no breaks in the wave," she said. "He couldn't get to swim parallel to the current like you're supposed to. The water kept coming and coming," said Durrett-Johnson. One of his sons, Kaylib, 19, saw his father struggling in the surf. He asked if his father needed his help, and Ritchie nervously responded, "Yes."
While Kaylib managed to drag the three boys from the water, Ritchie Sr. was still in trouble when pulled to the shore. Attempts were made to resuscitate him with CPR, however, he died shortly after.
"Not again, just not again, just please just not again," said Durrett-Johnson. "I was relentless... No, we are not letting go."
Durrett-Johnson remarked Ritchie died a hero saving those he loved. "[He] did everything for his kids" and "could turn any sad situation into a comedic one," she said.
The family is still trying to come to terms with the terrible tragedy. "We just came together trying to honor his legacy and do exactly what he would want us to do," Durrett-Johnson said, "and that’s just being a family. Our family has suffered so much tragedy already."
The family also set up a GoFundMe page for Ritchie, which had raised $10,500 from 223 donors. The site said Ritchie Sr. wasn't under life insurance. Durrett-Johnson also added the family members were struggling to pay funeral costs, as well as those associated with flying him back home from Florida.
The page read: "Stephone [Ritchie] died as a hero," the page said. "Stephone was a loving father, son, cousin, best friend, co-worker, gamer, awesome cook, and a great teacher."