Tragedy struck a community in St. Petersburg, Florida, after a beloved teacher, author, husband and father died trying to save a teen in distress at Lake Michigan.
Thomas Kenning, 38, who taught at a middle school, was at Porter Beach, Lake Michigan, with family on Monday when he saw a teen girl struggling out in the water.
After striking out into the waves, Kenning was pulled under and disappeared for around 15 minutes.
“A female teen in the water was in distress and the gentleman went into the water and attempted to rescue her,” Porter Fire Department Chief Jay Craig said, according to a post by the Town of Chesterton.
“She made it out with the assistance of lifeguards from Dunes State Park but he got sucked under. Once they got her out they went back looking for the man.”
The nearby Indiana Dunes State Park beach had been closed to swimming as the area was experiencing “dangerous conditions,” conditions that sadly became apparent a little too late.
Today I spoke with Thomas Kenning’s family and two of his former students. They tell me he was always putting others first- including the moment he lost his life while saving someone else. 🙏♥️ pic.twitter.com/wsUyB0H6rG
— Megan Myers WTSP (@MeganMyersNews) June 29, 2022
Eventually, Indiana Dunes State Park lifeguards found Kenning and immediately took him to shore and started CPR.
“CFD Chief Eric Camel estimated that the man may have been in the water 15 minutes before the lifeguards found him, in the waves approximately 20 to 30 feet from shore, just west of the Indiana Dunes State Park beach,” the Town of Chesteron’s post continued.
Kenning was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Despite the sad outcome, Craig still recognized the bravery of the lifeguards who saved the girl and brought Kenning to shore.
“The lifeguards were the true miracle workers today,” Craig said. “They did the best job they could under difficult conditions. They never gave up. They did a phenomenal job.”
Friends of the family started a GoFundMe for Kenning’s wife and daughter.
“While we mourn the tragic loss of such an incredible person, we want to offer support for his family during this difficult time, especially his wife, Jasmine, and daughter, Rory,” the page stated.
“Tom truly believed in the best of people and sought to ‘leave the planet a little bit nicer than he found it.’ As such, a portion of these donations will go to support nonprofits that Tom loved and believed in.”
So far the fundraiser sits at $40,849 after just two days.
The family, who was present at the time of the accident, is remembering him as a true hero who proved his love for others in his final moments.
“My last image is of him standing in the water holding his hand out to her,” Kenning’s mother, Sharon, told WTSP-TV.
“Everywhere he went he embraced his environment and his surroundings. He wrote books about it to share with people to try and open their eyes to the things around them.”
“His last breath was literally for someone else,” his wife Jasmine said.
Even his students were unsurprised that their teacher died trying to save someone else, a true testament to his character.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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