ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. — A man who drowned in the South Yadkin River on Saturday is being called a hero by his family.
Authorities said 45-year-old Steven Tanksley of Salisbury died after jumping in the water to try to save a man swept over a dam carrying his dog.
"That just the kind of man he was. He was valiant," said Melanie Tanksley, his wife, according to WSOC.
Cooleemee police said they found Steven Tanksley’s body around 9 p.m. at Cooleemee River Park not far from where he fell in.
Earlier in the day, four people and a dog were rescued after crews responded to a call of a possible drowning relating to the same incident.
"He was just a great father," Melanie Tanksley said, with tears in her eyes. "He was the best daddy ever."
Tanksley had been at “the Bullhole,” a popular name for RiverPark at Cooleemee Falls. His son Zaleb was with him at the time.
"He said Zaleb, don't come any closer. Remember when I told you if anything had ever happened to me. I need you to be there for your brothers and your mother and he told me that he loved me," said Zaleb Tanksley.
Search crews spent hours searching a 6-mile stretch of the river and found Tanksley dead, trapped near a rock where he jumped in.
Tanksley leaves behind a wife and five children. Funeral services have not been planned.
The family is asking if anyone wants to make donations to help with the burial to contact Pastor Adams with the Tabernacle Baptist Church at (704) 433-4846.