An Ohio man is being hailed a hero after saving a drowning teen in Lake Erie over the weekend, but the heroic move took a tragic twist.
Peter Radke, a 43-year-old father of four, died Saturday after being one of a group who set out into the water near Huntington Beach to help a struggling 14-year-old girl.
While the group made it back to shore, Radke didn’t. A human chain searched for Radke in the water for hours; his body was found several hours later on the beach.
“My understanding is she was in distress and that Pete and several others went in to help her. He was able to push her onto the rocks onto safety. In that process, he lost his life and we don’t know how exactly,” Jeff Bogue, one of the pastors at the family’s church, told the Akron Beacon Journal.
“He gave his life for hers,” Bogue continued. “There’s a passage of scripture that jumped to my mind right away. In talking about Jesus, it says, ‘There’s no greater love that a man has than to lay down his life for a friend’ — that’s what you’re looking at. A guy who gave his life for a kid.”
Watch WOIO-TV’s report about the tragic drowning:
Radke’s friend, Adam Rissmiller, told the Beacon Journal he’s not surprised that saving someone else was the father’s final action.
“Pete was more interested in significance than success and he would say it just like that,” Rissmiller told the newspaper. “Pete should be known for the significance he had. He was a connector. He was really good at connecting people; finding people that had needs and filling those needs.”
His family expressed a similar sentiment in a statement.
“Words cannot express the profound sorrow we feel over the death of our beloved Pete. He was dedicated to serving God and anyone in need. While we never expected to lose him so soon, we take comfort in knowing Pete’s final moments were spent saving the life of another. Peter Todd Radke, devoted husband and father of four, would have had it no other way,” the family said, according to WJW-TV.
Rescue teams were on the scene by 6 p.m. Saturday, answering a 911 call. WJW reported that 11 agencies, a helicopter and three boats helped in the three-hour search. Cleveland Metroparks officials said it is investigating what exactly happened to lead to the accident.
The girl in the incident, whose name was not released, was taken to a local hospital, but her condition was not known, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.
More than $3,700 has been raised for the grieving family.