A hero dad who saved his seven-year-old daughter from a fast-flowing river drowned after he was sucked underwater by a series of sink holes, an inquest heard.
Dean Price, 32, battled to rescue Delilah from the River Esk in the Lake District, Cumbria, when she got into difficulty after going in for a paddle.
She was eventually saved by a passerby who dived in but Mr Price was dragged under the water and drowned.
An inquest heard the family, from Walsall, West Mids., were on a camping trip on June 30 and were having a picnic in Longtown, Cumbria, when the tragedy happened.
Mr Price had taken his daughter Delilah and other children Emmanuel, nine and eight-year-old Montanna (corr) in for a paddle at around 4pm.
His wife Kelly, who could not swim, stayed on the riverbank with their eight-month-old baby daughter Hosanna while her husband took their children into the water.
She told Carlisle Coroner’s Court her husband and daughter got into difficulty in the middle of the river and were heard screaming for help.
In a statement read out to the hearing, Mrs Price, 31, said: “We had been there about an hour when I heard Dean shouting me to get help.
“I started screaming ‘help!’. It was a bit of a blur as it happened so fast.
“I saw Dean and Delilah in the middle of the river and I saw them go under the water.
“The next thing I know, a man came and helped.”
Off-duty firefighter Geoff Maxwell, 52, who is also a joiner, was working on a house nearby when he heard their cries for help and dived into the fast-flowing river.
The inquest heard he managed to haul Delilah to safety but Mr Price was sucked underneath the water by a series of sink holes on the river bed.
Mr Maxwell told the inquest: “I dived in towards that spot. Just by sheer chance, sheer luck, I touched her (Delilah) under the water.
“I grabbed her hair and pulled her out. As soon as I pulled her out she was coughing and screaming. I knew she was alive if nothing else.”
A huge search operation was launched, including firefighters, police, mountain rescue, coastguards, and RAF helicopters to find Mr Price.
After an eight-hour search divers discovered Mr Price’s body several miles down the river.
Returning a verdict of accidental death by drowning, Cumbria Coroner David Roberts said: “I am entirely satisfied that Mr Price has gone into the water to rescue his daughter.
“He, much the same as Mr Maxwell, would not have realised how dangerous the river was at that point.
“Unfortunately, in his effort to keep his daughter above the surface of the river, Mr Price himself has got into difficulty and has been unable to get out, and has died as a result of immersion.”
Addressing Mr Maxwell, Mr Roberts said: “On behalf of the public generally, I would like to thank you for your selfless act.
“Had he not dived in, I am satisfied that Delilah would have drowned as well.”
The coroner responded to evidence from Mr Maxwell that two lifebelts were missing from their holders on the riverbank.
He said: “In the context of this case, the absence of these really didn’t make a significance difference.
“But it is a sad reflection of the times that items which are loosely fixed to these special boards for people in trouble in the river seem to disappear either by theft or vandalism on a regular basis.”
Speaking at the time of the tragedy, Mrs Price described her husband as the “best dad in the world”.
She said: “He was a number one dad.
“He was the best dad in the world. He was a hero and he saved his child. He always put me and the children first. He was a number one husband.
“He was a committed Christian and loved the Lord Jesus.
“We go to church in Willenhall. We were on holiday when he died.”
Verdict: Accidental death.