(WJBK) - A 24-year-old man died Sunday after he dove into the Clinton River to save a toddler and never resurfaced.
"We weren't prepared for it," said Anthony Traylor, the man's father.
The family of Joshua Traylor is still trying to make sense of a tragedy that took the young man's life but has so many calling him a hero.
"His heart is huge and he always felt he had to help somebody," Anthony said.
That's just how Joshua spent his final moments.
Officials say just before 5 p.m. Sunday, Joshua, his girlfriend and her 3-year-old son were at a boardwalk behind the Mt. Clemens' YMCA feeding ducks when the little boy fell into the Clinton River.
Despite not knowing how to swim, Joshua jumped into the river to save the boy.
"I heard a commotion and thought it was a joke," said Ron Elko.
Fishing nearby, Elko realized lives were in danger and jumped into the river even though, like Joshua, he says he also can't swim.
"I went in where I last saw the kid and I just reached out and grabbed him. I don't really know how I got back to the dock," Elko said.
Emergency crews arrived to the scene and officials say Joshua was located just after 6 p.m.
He was rushed to a local hospital but could not be revived.
"As far as I'm concerned Josh is the real hero," Elko said.
After the tragedy, Joshua's father says he went down to the Clinton River to see where his son spent his final moments and he says he has some concerns about the boardwalk's safety.
"There's a T-shape that goes into the water with no barrier," Anthony said.
Joshua's family says he was preparing for a football career, and when he wasn't training, he worked in construction and spreading the gospel as a street minister with his family.
"The Bible says there is no greater thing than laying down your life for another. That's the greatest gift of all, and that's what he did. And we're very proud of him," Anthony said.