Twenty-eight-year-old William (Bill) Moritz was on a beach with his 6-year-old daughter Saturday afternoon in northeast Florida preparing for his father's funeral when family members said the girl was swept away by a tumultuous tide.
Moritz jumped into the strong surf to save her, his family said, and lost his life sparing hers.
"As a result of saving [the girl's] life he ultimately lost his," Nicole Doherty, a family friend, wrote over the weekend on a GoFundMe page for the family.
Family members said they were planning to hold a memorial service for Moritz's father on the beach later that day. After Moritz drowned, the service was canceled.
"Bill was the most kindhearted selfless person I knew," the girl's mother, Magan, said in a statement to WJAX-TV. "There was never a time he didn't put others before himself. Anyone could depend on Bill for anything in the world. He was the kind of person people were so grateful to have in their life and I was so lucky to have him in mine.
"His daughter was his world and he always spoke of her with a sparkle in his eyes. He took pride in being a father every day."
Police said that just before noon Saturday, Moritz, from Michigan, dove into the ocean at Jacksonville Beach to rescue his daughter and, when she got close to the shore, someone on the beach pulled her to safety, according to WJAX-TV.
Both Moritz and his daughter were rushed to a hospital, where Moritz was pronounced dead. His daughter was later released, according to reports.
After the incident, authorities urged beachgoers to stay out of the rough waters.
Bill Horn, captain of Volunteer Lifesaving Corps of Jacksonville Beach, told WJAX-TV over the weekend that strong winds were pushing waves up to five feet high, putting 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."
Horn told the news station that swimmers who get swept away should swim parallel to the shore, then head back by swimming at an angle.
A family friend has created a GoFundMe page, which said Moritz lost his life "doing what any great father would do." By Tuesday morning, more than $8600 had been raised to help the family pay to have Moritz's body moved back to Michigan and to cover funeral costs.
The girl's mother called Moritz "an amazing man who I now look to as my hero for courageously saving our beautiful daughter's life."