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Chicago-area dad of 3 dies saving kids from being carried out to sea by rip current

"The world needs more Petes," his friend said.
/ Source: TODAY

A father of three from Illinois died Sunday while trying to save struggling children in the Gulf of Mexico.

Pete Rosengren, along with his wife, Maura, and sons Gavin, 14, Charlie, 12, and Grant, 7, had driven from their home in Batavia, Illinois, to the Florida panhandle for a vacation with three other families when tragedy struck.

Maura Rosengren told the Daily Herald, the Chicago-area newspaper where Pete was an executive, the family had only been at the beach for a few minutes. She said there was a double red flag warning indicating dangerous water conditions, but the kids "ran into the water right away."

Pete Rosengren with his kids.Courtesy Rosengren family

Rosengren said the children were no match for a strong rip current. When the 42-year-old dad saw his kids and other children struggling in the water, he immediately ran in, the beach safety director for South Walton Fire District told the Daily Herald.

"It all happened so fast. I ran toward the water," Maura Rosengren told the newspaper, adding the kids were trying to help each other work their way back to shore and a friend's 9-year-old son was struggling. "We could see one little boy couldn't get in and ... (Pete) went out there," she shared through tears.

Pete Rosengren was able to successfully reach the struggling child and pass him to adults on the shoreline, but he was unable to rescue himself. Lifeguards performed CPR on Pete Rosengren before he was taken to a nearby hospital, where he later died. The medical examiner has not yet released a cause of death.

“He’s one in a million,” Joe Shaker, a friend of Pete Rosengren, told NBC Chicago. “He is the perfect definition of a best friend you could ask for. He always put others ahead of himself all the way to the end.”

Speaking on Pete Rosengren’s personal and professional life, Shaker added, “He didn’t have a mean bone in his body. He was a leader, and he gave you 110% in everything he ever did.”

A huge fan of Chicago sports teams, especially his beloved baseball team, the Chicago Cubs, the father of three also took pride in coaching his sons.

“Those boys meant the world to him, and he was all about coaching and raising them,” Shaker said.

For all of Pete Rosengren’s loved ones and colleagues who are heartbroken at the loss of their friend, it’s Maura Rosengren and her children who now have to go on without their husband or father. The Daily Herald reported that Monday marked the couple’s 18th wedding anniversary and Maura spent the day trying to figure out how to get her husband’s body back to Illinois and plan his funeral.

“He loved his wife so dearly,” Shaker said. “Any time he could get a chance to brag about her, he would, and he would smile from ear to ear. The world needs more Petes.”