The family of a father who drowned after being swept out to sea at Sleaford in South Australia say the tragedy has “shaken our family to its core”.
Dan Cojocea disappeared on Friday afternoon after he saved a group of six children — including two of his own four children — when they became caught in a rip off Mary Ellis Beach, near Port Lincoln.
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He had been camping in the area with his wife and children and another family.
The children were rescued from the water, but Cojocea was caught in large waves near the shore and disappeared.
Four of the children were taken to hospital.
Police and the SA State Emergency Service began an aerial, ground and ocean search, 26km southwest of Port Lincoln, on Friday afternoon, but could not find Cojocea.
The 43-year-old’s body was found washed up on the shore on Monday morning by his relatives.
Cojocea was swimming with a group of children at Mary Ellis Beach, near Port Lincoln when they became caught in a rip. Credit: Supplied
“Our hearts are broken with devastation over the loss of a wonderful husband, son, father and brother,” the Cojocea family told 7NEWS.
“Although this tragedy has shaken our family to its core, we are forever grateful for the support and prayers from loved ones and the wider community, particularly those who have been on the ground searching tirelessly with the SES.
“Also the Port Lincoln police (especially policeman Markus who attended every day).
“Dan was loved by all who knew him, bringing joy, laughter and encouragement wherever he went.
“A man who loved his family more than anything in the world.
“He will forever be remembered as a hero and a man of faith.
“Thank you for everyone’s messages of love and support as we attempt to walk through this tragedy.”
Dan Cojocea pictured with his wife and their four children. Credit: GFM
Cojocea’s friends and family called the South Australian father a hero for helping rescue the children who were in the ocean with him at the time.
A Go Fund Me set up for the family has raised more than $62,000 in under 24 hours.
Cojocea’s sister said her brother would be remembered for his selflessness.
“We are so incredibly proud of him, for the hero he is, portraying selfless love even in his final hour of life by saving his own two sons and best friend’s daughter from the rip waters before being swept out to sea himself,” she said on the fundraiser page.
“You died a hero Dan, proving the selfless man you were; a beautiful example of love saving the children that would have otherwise lost their own lives.”
Lidia said her family took comfort in believing they would one day meet again.