A selfless young father who died after diving into a freezing pond to rescue his drowning daughter jumped in despite not being able to swim himself, a devastated friend who witnessed the tragic accident has revealed.
Father Anthony Burgess Jr., 24, was standing beside his car talking to his friend Bobby Malone, 28, at the Core Riverbend Apartments in Castleton in the city of Indianapolis, Indiana, when the incident took place.
Burgess’s three-year-old daughter was in the car and accidentally hit the gear lever, putting it into reverse, while clambering over the seats inside. The car rolled into the pond with the girl still trapped at about 4.30pm on Sunday, WIBC reported, leading to a frantic effort to save her.
Neither Burgess nor Malone knew how to swim, but they dived in to try and rescue her. Burgess drowned in the process.
Now Malone has posted heartfelt messages on Facebook a day after the tragedy saying it feels like he lost a brother.
He said he had never felt so helpless in his life while watching his friend struggle in the water, writing: ‘I couldn’t even tell him goodbye’.
‘He saved his daughter he couldn’t save his self!’ Malone said.
Describing his struggle to reach his friend after jumping in, Malone added: ‘Why did this happen in like two seconds and five seconds the car in the water. He didn’t deserve that why the f**k couldn’t I make that swim…
‘I couldn’t make it bro I’m sorry bro,’ he wrote.
‘I’m sorry bro I couldn’t help you like I wanted to bro I wanted to but I ain’t as strong as I wanna b bro… I was coming on God I was coming [sic]’.
Burgess reached the car before it disappeared underwater and yelled to his daughter to get into the back seat, before grabbing her from the vehicle.
Malone made his way back to shore to avoid drowning while another man on the other side of the pond, who also could not swim, jumped in to rescue the girl.
The 30-year-old bystander then went back to help Burgess, who had disappeared under the water but had to turn back to shore halfway towards him.
Burgess was pulled from the pond by first responders and rushed to St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospital, but died from his injuries at about 11.30pm.
He had reportedly been in the water for nearly 20 minutes.
His daughter was taken to Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health and remains in a critical but stable condition.
The bystander who helped to rescue the girl was in good condition but taken to hospital for checks.
Divers found Burgess’s car about 25 feet down and 50 feet out from the shore of the retention pond, which is designed to store stormwater and prevent flooding.
Burgess was hailed a hero by his friends for risking his life to save his child when he couldn’t swim.
‘Thank you, Jesus, for giving him the strength to save his daughter,’ wrote Kelly Jordan, who posted moving pictures of Burgess and his child on Facebook.
‘He couldn’t swim to save his own life. But to save his daughter he became an excellent swimmer,’ she wrote.
Weeks before his tragic death, Burgess posted an adorable picture of him giving his daughter a kiss on Facebook.
He captioned it: ‘I love her soooooooooo much’.
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