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Minnesota father drowns saving daughters in lake

Leland Morris

(CNN) — A Minnesota father is being remembered as a hero — after drowning while saving his little girls.

Leland Morris was just 26-year-old. He was swimming in a lake with his daughters.

On a hot day like Sunday, the cool waters of Moore Lake just off Highway 65 in Fridley looked awfully welcoming.

Diamond Beavers says she and her family, including her children’s father, Leland Morris, were on inflatable rafts when 4-year-old Serenity began struggling.

“It looked to me like she was going to go under, so I started to get off, and he was like, ‘I got it. I am going to go get her,’” Diamond said.

What happened next is a blur.

Diamond also had 3-month-old Messiah out on the water with her.

As Leland tried to save serenity, he began struggling.

“Leland was screaming, ‘help, help! Call 9-1-1!’” Diamond said.

More people drown on lakes than in swimming pools. Diamond says she thought she knew how to swim, and she thought Leland knew how to swim, but both of them clearly struggled in these conditions.

“I’m watching him just flail, trying to get the girls from going under,” Diamond said. “I got off my raft and went under the water. The sand sunk under my feet.”

Bystanders helped pull both girls to shore – but, by then, Leland was underwater and no one could find him.

“It was happening too fast,” Diamond said. “It was all within a 10-minute increment. Like, we got out of the pool. Five minutes, and everything went wrong.”

She said Leland gave his own life for the girls he adored.

“Leland was a hero,” Diamond said. “These kids called him hero every day.”

“I didn’t expect for him to be gone this soon,” she added.

Water safety experts say swimming in lakes can be harder than in pools. They sometimes have steep drop-offs that aren’t visible from the surface.

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