Heroic Man Dies Saving Child from Powerful Riptide

PHOTO: Alan Hall, a 65-year-old man, died April 8, 2012 rescuing a 5-year-old from a rip current while spending the day at the beach in Honeymoon Island, Fla. with his family.
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A heroic 65-year-old man jumped directly into a powerful Florida riptide and rescued a little girl before suffering a "cardiac event" in the water that led to his death.

Alan Hall went to Honeymoon Island, Fla. Sunday to spend the day relaxing with his wife and daughter, but the day quickly took a dramatic turn.

While taking a walk with his wife, Eileen, to collect seashells, the couple spotted three children playing near the shoreline as a powerful current began to build.

"[My dad] said, 'I hope somebody's watching them. That's a pretty strong current,'" Julie Hall recounted.

Seconds later, the children started screaming for help. Their parents rushed into the water and were each able to pull a child to safety, but a third child, a little girl, was still in harms way in the rough water. Alan Hall jumped into the tide without hesitating, Julie Hall said.

"My dad was able to push Ruby out of the way and towards the shore, where it was safe," said Julie Hall.

Riptides, also known as rip currents, are extremely dangerous channels of discolored water that can form unexpectedly and pull swimmers away from the beach.

After pushing the child to safety, Alan Hall's heart stopped. Nearby boaters managed to get him back to shore, where a crowd was gathering.

His wife began performing CPR immediately but Alan Hall was not breathing and did not have a pulse.

"My mom said one of the things she remembers so strongly is the circle of people around him that all started praying for him," Julie Hall said. "That's something that has stuck with her."

Emergency medics arrived and attempted to resuscitate Hall, but they were unsuccessful. He was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Medical examiners have not yet released a cause of death, but Julie Hall said her father suffered from a "cardiac event."

A spokeswoman from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said that no lifeguards were on the section of the beach because it is not a designated swimming area. Other parts of Honeymoon Island State Park are open for swimming but only have seasonal lifeguards on duty from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Five-year-old Ruby, the child Alan Hall saved, traveled to the hospital with her parents and siblings to thank the Halls. The family had been on vacation in Florida, visiting from Ohio.

"They were so distraught and they were so guilty," Julie Hall said. "We told them not to feel guilty because if my dad had known the outcome, he would have done it anyway. That's how he lived his life. He would have done it regardless. He was one of those people that actually lived what he preached."

Eileen Hall spoke to the mother of the rescued children today and the distraught woman said the she has been getting hate mail and angry messages online saying that she and her husband are horrible parents for not watching their children more closely.

The news upset the Hall family. Eileen Hall is "heartbroken" over the negativity and Julie Hall said her father would be "so upset" if he knew people were criticizing the family.

"We are not angry with this family," Julie Hall wrote in an email to ABCNews.com. "The mom [of the children] was holding onto both of her daughters and said that if my dad had not swam up to her and said, 'Let me take one and help,' then all three of them would have drowned and we would be mourning the loss of a mom and two young girls."

Julie Hall said her recently-retired parents moved to the Land O'Lakes area of Florida from Connecticut not long ago. Her mother is a retired nurse and Alan Hall most recently worked in sales for Frito Lay.

The couple was getting ready to celebrate their 42nd wedding anniversary. Hall said her mother is doing "as good as can be expected."

"I think because she's still in shock, she's okay right now," Hall said. "She's strong. She's tough."

Hall said her family is extremely proud of her father, and hopes the example he set will move others to perform acts of kindness and caring for strangers.

"He wouldn't have done it to be a hero, but he's probably grinning somewhere," Hall said.

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