Josh Graham was on a Saturday family outing with his wife, Angela, and their children at Surfside Beach, located 65 miles south of Houston, when the boys – Bruno, 13, and 10-year-old Sawyer – got caught in a riptide 50 feet offshore.
“We lost the love of my life, my soulmate, the best father to my son and stepsons, a loving son and brother, grandson, nephew, cousin and a dear friend to so many,” Angela Graham wrote on Facebook. “He died a hero saving our two oldest boys from drowning in a riptide in Surfside Beach, TX.
“I am torn to pieces and my soul has been ripped from my body,” she continued.
Mike Lampson and Rodney Sanders witnessed Graham struggling in the water and rushed to try and save him.
In an interview with KHOU-TV, Sanders said he saw Graham on a wave 50 to 60 yards offshore.
“I knew something was wrong,” he said. “I turned around, took my glasses off, chunked them at (my wife), and I took off running.”
He said it took him around 15 to 20 minutes to reach Graham after fighting through waves and currents. Graham was not responsive when he found him, he said.
“Somebody brought a surfboard up and we got (Graham) onto the surfboard,” Lampson said. “I tried my best to start compressions right away, but the current was really strong and pretty much impossible, so we all made the decision to … link up arms and get him into the shore.”
Sanders and Lampson have training in military survival swimming.
An ambulance met them on the beach and medical personnel began resuscitation efforts. Sanders said he walked one of the sons away from the scene.
“His kids got stuck in that rip current,” Sanders said. “Josh is the hero. He went out there. He paid the ultimate sacrifice. He gave his life for his kids.”
In a statement to Fox News, Angela Graham said beaches should have flotation devices and lifeguards to avoid similar tragedies.
“My husband’s sacrifice could’ve been avoided if these measures were available,” she said. “We want my beloved husband’s act of heroism to not be in vain.”
The couple recently celebrated their one-year wedding anniversary, according to a March 15 post to Josh Graham’s Facebook page.
“My heart and soul was ripped from my body as I saw the lifeless body of my soul mate, the love of my life dragged out of the water,” Angela Graham wrote. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same, if life will ever be as sweet as it was with my beloved.”