An Illinois family is in mourning after their father died on a family vacation while rescuing his sons and other children from a dangerous rip current.
Pete Rosengren, the vice president of sales and digital strategies for the Daily Herald Media Group, died Sunday following the incident in the Gulf of Mexico, according to The Daily Herald.
At the time, Rosengren, 42, was vacationing in Florida with his wife Maura Rosengren, their sons Gavin, 14, Charlie, 12, and Grant, 7, and three other families, the outlet reported.
"Pete was always there for others — employees, peers, family and friends. That was his DNA," Scott Stone, president and chief operating officer of Daily Herald Media Group, said in a statement to the outlet. "Pete had an oversized personality, quick wit, humor and unique compassion for others. It's no surprise his final minute was spent helping others."
Maura told the Herald that her family had driven from their home in Batavia to Florida and expected to spend the week soaking up the sun together.
On Sunday, the families headed to Miramar Beach, an island resort community in Florida, according to the outlet.
Though the beach was open, the ocean was marked with a double red flag warning, meaning that the waters were off limits due to dangerous conditions, the Herald reported.
"We had only had been there a couple [of] minutes. The kids ran into the water right away," Maura recalled to the outlet.
It wasn't long before things took a dangerous turn and her sons, along with the other kids, found themselves caught in a rip current.
"It all happened so fast. I ran toward the water," Maura explained to the Herald.
While the Rosengren boys were able to help each other get to shore, Maura said Pete noticed a friend's 9-year-old son was struggling, which prompted her husband to jump into action.
"We could see one little boy couldn't get in and … [Pete] went out there," she explained to the outlet.
Pete was able to reach the child and pass him off to other adults, but sadly, was unable to save himself. He was later brought to shore where first responders performed CPR and transported him to a hospital, according to the Herald.
In the meantime, lifeguards also pulled two other boys from the water, the outlet reported.
At this time, Pete's cause of death remains unclear. The medical examiner is currently working to determine a cause, which the Herald noted could be drowning or possibly a cardiac issue.
Prior to his tragic death, Rosengren worked for the Herald and its media group for nearly 20 years, according to his LinkedIn page.
Many of his friends and colleagues told the Herald that while they were heartbroken over the news, they weren't surprised that Pete would risk his life for others.
"That was Pete. Such a hero. He gave you everything he could," said Joe Shaker, the president of Shaker Recruitment Marketing, who was friends with Pete and did business with the Herald with him. "There isn't one person who doesn't have a Pete Rosengren story. He made you feel special. He lived as we all should live."
Speaking to NBC affiliate WMAQ, Shaker added: "He's one in a million. He is the perfect definition of a best friend you could ask for. He always put others ahead of himself all the way to the end."
Douglas K. Ray, chairman and publisher and CEO of the Daily Herald Media Group, told the Herald: "[He was] great with clients, technologically savvy and smart… But more importantly, I know he was a great dad, husband, friend and fellow colleague."
As loved ones continue to remember Pete, his wife is left adjusting to her new reality.
On Monday, what would've been their 18th wedding anniversary, Maura spent the day trying to figure out how to get her husband's body home and plan his funeral, according to the Herald.
"I feel this sense of gratitude that Pete worked from home last year," she told the Herald of their time together amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"He loved his wife so dearly," Shaker added to WMAQ. "Any time he could get a chance to brag about her, he would, and he would smile from ear to ear. The world needs more Petes."
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