When the maximum force twister descended on Kansas Friday evening, police officer Robert Tim Buckman was unable to take cover.
Buckman was rushing to warn other residents about the descending tornado when he was caught up in it himself.
His car was tossed practically the length of a football field, and Buckman, 46, was critically injured.
"The car itself was smashed equivalent to stepping on a pop can," his son Derick said.
Robert Tim Buckman died Tuesday, pushing the death toll to 12 after the powerful twisters hit Kansas.
Buckman was a well-known man around the tiny town of Macksville, Kan.
He served the community as not only a police officer, but a firefighter and emergency medical technician. But his most important role, said his family, was as a dad.
What was to have been a festive season -- planning his daughter's summer wedding -- instead became a vigil in an intensive care unit.
"I could feel that he was aware of what was going on," said his daughter, Kylee Buckman.
Sensing that her father would not survive much longer, Kylee and her fiancé transformed the last goodbye into a joyful parting by exchanging vows on Monday in her father's hospital room.
"We decided that we wanted to have a ceremony in his room with him," she said. "I could hold his hand and basically him give me away, even if he couldn't say it."
Hours later, Buckman was taken off life support, but not before saving a few more lives. Long ago he had arranged to donate his kidneys and liver to help others.
"Everything he ever did was for somebody else," Derick Buckman said. "He did die a hero. He died doing what he loved to do."