2 Dead, 1 Missing as Search Continues for Swimmer Called 'Apollo Beach Hero'

A stock image of a "No Swimming," sign.
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Tjonique Gray told BayNews 9 that she “hopes he’s somewhere out there," of her partner, Kristoff Murray, 27.

Search efforts are underway for a missing swimmer hailed the "Apollo Beach Hero" at Apollo Beach Nature Preserve, who selflessly dove in to save a father and son that were swept up by a dangerous rip current and later died off the Florida Coast on Friday, officials said. 

Thirty-seven-year-old Janosh Purackal and his 4-year-old son, Daniel, both of Gibsonton, were in distress on Friday when a Good Samaritan, identified as 27-year-old Kristoff Murray, jumped in an attempt to rescue them, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HSCO) said in a statement.

The HSCO Marine Unit, Aviation Unit, and Dive Team along with the Hillsborough Fire rescue and U.S. Coast Guard were deployed to 6000 block of Surfside Boulevard around 7:30 p.m. after a woman called 911 to report that her partner had jumped into the water at Apollo Beach Preserve to help a man and toddler who were being carried away by the current, Fox 13 News reported.

Janosh Purackal was recovered at approximately 9 p.m. and Daniel Purackal was recovered minutes later. The child was transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced deceased, HSCO reported.

"Our hearts break for the father and son who lost their lives tonight. The horrible sight led a selfless stranger to sacrifice his own life, in an attempt to save them," said Sheriff Chad Chronister. "As we aggressively search these waters to try and locate this individual, we are urging everyone to remember that water safety is paramount."

Chronister added that he was not sure why the two victims were in the water in the first place. He urged every parent not to put an infant child near any type of moving or open body of water without a lifejacket on.

Search efforts are still underway for the missing swimmer, who is of Jamaican descent, according to My Jamaica Today. 

"We're certainly calling him now, not just a good samaritan, but our Apollo Beach Hero," Chronister said of Kristoff Murray, People reported.

Tjonique Gray told BayNews 9  that she “hopes he’s somewhere out there," of her partner, Kristoff Murray.

“He’s a pretty good swimmer. We’re pretty hopeful. His mom is pretty hopeful. We’re just hoping for the best," said Gray.

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s public affairs office told Inside Edition Digital that the area of the preserve where the incident took place has “No Swimming” warning signs and that lifeguards do not regulate that area where the incident occurred because swimming is not permitted.

The day of the incident the weather conditions were normal, but on occasion, there are dangerous rip currents, the HSCO public affairs office said.

HCSO’s Marine and Aviation Units continue to do spot-checks of the area, with the assistance of Florida Fish and Wildlife, HSCO said.

"The likelihood of this individual being alive is probably slim, but we’re going to give him every ounce of hope that we have," Chronister told Fox 13

Non-profit organization Bring a Noodle Rip Current Awareness and Tragedy Prevention offers these tips.

*Remember to pay attention to beach flags and signage. Red flags indicate that “knee deep is too deep” for most people. Double red flags indicate “do not enter the water at all”.

*If you are not trained in open water rescue/rip current rescue, please do not attempt to rescue someone caught in a rip current! Even if it appears you can walk out to help them. Tell them to remain calm, throw them something to float on and call 911!

*Anytime you enter the water at the beach, always bring something to float on! Rip currents are strongest close to the shore. It doesn’t take much for a wave to knock you down or to lose footing in the sand and suddenly you are pulled out towards deeper water.

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