A father of seven died while rescuing two of his children after a day out on the beach turned to tragedy, an inquest has heard.
Jonathan Stevens, 36, rushed into the sea when he heard his son and daughter screaming after they got into difficulty in the water off Barmouth beach in north Wales.
The Telford man was on a day out with his children amid soaring temperatures when the incident happened on Sunday, August 2 this year.
The plasterer – nicknamed Joff – managed to pull his kids to safety after they got caught up in a riptide, North Wales Live reports.
But an inquest that opened in Caernarfon in north Wales on Monday, November 9, heard that Mr Stevens was later found unresponsive in the water before being airlifted to hospital.
Despite the efforts of medics, he was pronounced dead at around 3.15pm in Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor in north Wales later that day.
An investigation into Mr Stevens’ death is continuing and the inquest has now been adjourned pending the outcome of its enquiries.
After his death, his partner Laura Burford, who was at their home in Telford when the incident happened, said: “I am absolutely devastated to say that I have lost the complete love of my life.”
Ms Burford’s sister Farah Parsons said: “Joff is all our hero. My sister and her children are beside themselves as is everyone. Joff was a well-loved person by everyone.”
Another family member said it was “devastating news”, saying: “He was one hell of good dad – he will be missed so much by everyone. An unreal family day out turned into a tragedy.”
A GoFundMe page was later set up to help raise funds for the family, and people can still donate there.
Louise Evans said on the page: “God bless Joff, a lovely amazing fantastic lad, a wonderful father. Hard to imagine he’s gone… My thoughts are with Laura, his children and family…. sleep peacefully, Joff.”
Sara Di Carlo said: “I don’t know their family, but I’ve been incredibly moved by this terrible tragedy. Life will never be the same again. But it must be comforting to know he died a hero. I wish them all well.”
Daughter Lauren, 11, told how she rushed over to lifeguards to urge them to help on the day.
She said “my dad is drowning, please save him” as she watched the incident unfold in front of her and four-year-old brother Joshua.
Speaking to the SunOnline with the permission of her mother, she revealed the moment her dad smiled for the last time after saving her sister Lacey, 12, and brother Jack, 10.
“They got to him pretty quickly and swam in with him being carried between them, then when they got close to the beach they put him on his feet,” she said.
“The water was waist high at this point.
“Dad opened his eyes and looked over to me, Joshua, and Lacey and Jack, who by now were back with us and he gave us a smile.
“But the next second he collapsed again and the lifeguards carried him in, laid him down on the sand and gave him CPR. He never opened his eyes again.
“I think Dad had used his last bit of strength to open his eyes and smile at us and when he saw we were all OK, he knew he could let go and die happily.”
She said that Lacey and Jack had been trying out a new body board when they got into difficulty.
Jonathan was watching them from the beach with Lauren and Joshua when Lacey began screaming.
Lauren said: “I could see Lacey and Jack being swept out about 100m in just a few seconds.
“Jack was clinging to the body board and I think he had the string attached to his leg but they were being pulled out so fast.
“They’re both good swimmers but it kept pulling them under the water. Jack especially was really struggling and at one point he went under for about 10 seconds.
“Dad got to Lacey first and pushed her away from the current, then he went to Jack, who by now was another 50m further out.
“He got hold of him and shoved him out of the current too but I think it took all his strength because next thing dad disappeared under the water.”
The inquest will resume at a later date.