Christopher Schultz and his 3-year-old son, Ashton, were enjoying a pre-Father's Day outing at Dead Shot Bay in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, on Saturday when things took a terrible turn.
"They were standing on a bridge looking down at a fish when the young boy fell in," Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander told TODAY.
Schultz jumped right in after him.
The 31-year-old lifted the boy to safety but began struggling while holding him above water. After a few moments, Schultz slipped under the surface, the sheriff said.
"Bystanders were able to grab the 3-year-old," Glander told TODAY. "And that's the last time they saw the father. He never resurfaced."
Police received a call at around 8:20 p.m, and divers found Schultz's body about 40 minutes later. He was pronounced dead at an area hospital. Ashton was treated for non-life threatening injuries, Glander said.
Schultz and his wife, Chelsie, lived in Frazee, Minnesota, and had four children: Addie, who is Ashton's twin sister, Xzavier, 4, and Liam, 1.
"Chris was so proud of his family," Chelsie's stepfather, Shawn Mastin, told TODAY. "He loved being outdoors with them and taking everybody fishing."
Mastin noted that Chelsie was "struggling" to come to terms with what happened to her soulmate.
"She's having a tough time," Mastin told TODAY. "She misses him so much."
Chelsie Schultz told a local newspaper she wasn't surprised her husband had put himself in harm's way.
“He’s a hero. He would’ve done it even if it wasn’t his kid,” she told the West Central Tribune. “I’m thankful that I can still look my son in the eyes and see him today. I’m wishing that we would be able to do it together, but at least I have my son to remember him by.”
Glander said the case was still under investigation. An autopsy wasn't planned.
Funeral arrangements were underway, and family members have launched a GoFundMe campaign to help cover expenses.
Friends said Schultz will be remembered for his act of bravery.
“(He) sacrificed his life to make sure his kid could see another day," Matthew Clark, Schultz’s longtime friend, told NBC affiliate Valley News Live. “He wasn’t thinking about anything else other than that."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 people die every day from unintentional drownings.