TRINITY, Fla. -
Officials are still searching for a 39-year-old man who jumped into the water near Johnson Key to rescue a child in distress.
Brian Kowalski of Trinity was last seen Monday afternoon. He was on a boat trip in the Florida Keys with other adults and children, including his 10-year-old daughter Erin.
Erin says two other kids were snorkeling and being towed by ropes behind the boat when one of them started to show signs of distress. Without hesitating, she says, her dad jumped right in to save him.
“The current was taking them and it was going fast,” said Erin.
Kowalski was able to save the child, but not himself. Two people on the boat tried to turn the boat around so they could help, but the rope got tangled in the propeller. They lost sight of Kowalski as they tried to untangle the rope.
“I watched him float away the whole time,” Erin said.
At 10 years old, Erin called 911.
"I was crying and screaming – this is an emergency! Just screaming at the top of my lungs – this is an emergency and we need help now,” she recalled.
Help arrived – from wildlife officials to the U.S. Coast Guard to the U.S. Navy – but so far to no avail. As divers and helicopter crews continue to comb the water looking for Kowalski, Erin and her family wait. They don’t plan to go home without him.
"I know he's going to come back. I have faith in that,” said Erin.
"They're going to find him. He's coming back to her,” said Erin’s godmother Sherry Ross.
Search efforts are scheduled to resume at sunrise.
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