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By CINDY SIMPSON
A Roane County man was trying to save his daughter and a friend, but instead, it was he who drowned off Cocoa Beach, Fla., Saturday.
Mike Ward, 49, went into the water to help his daughter and a friend. Authorities have said may have gotten into a powerful current running parallel to the shore.
“The riptide took him under — took him too long under,” said South Harriman Baptist music minister Sam Leslie.
Leslie said that the girls were OK, rescued when all three of them were brought ashore.
“Some surfers ended up bringing him and the girls in on their boards,” Leslie said.
Leslie said he thinks that the family was the first to arrive at the beach for a large family vacation. Other family members were on their way to the beach when they learned the news.
Ward was very involved in South Harriman Baptist Church, having last year been ordained as a deacon. He taught a boys Sunday school class and helped instruct the Royal Ambassadors for Boys class, a mission organization for boys.
Leslie said a group of church men will be going to Nashville tonight to meet the plane carrying Ward's body. They will escort it back to Roane County.
“That is kind of the love that they've got for him,” Leslie said.
Ward held a special place in Leslie's heart for his kind-hearted ways.
“He didn't hesitate to tell people how much he loved them. A lot of people learned an important lesson from Mike in that,” Leslie said.
“Mike was always the one that would come and tell me how much he appreciated me,” he said.
Leslie said Ward was an involved father and family man with his wife, Beverly, daughter, Abigail, and son, Logan.
“He was very active in anything his children did,” Leslie said.
Abigail was a softball player, and her father loved helping her with it.
“Mike helped with the team. Just anything their kids were in, he was in the middle of it,” Leslie said.