By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A father is being remembered as a hero for helping to save his little girls from drowning.

On a hot day like Sunday, the cool waters of Moore Lake just off Highway 65 in Fridley looked awfully welcoming. Leland Morris, 26, was with his 2- and 4-year-old girls as they began to struggle in the water over the weekend.

Diamond Beavers says she and her family — including her children’s father — were on inflatable rafts when 4-year-old Serenity began struggling.

“It looked to me like she was going to go under, and I started to get off, and he said ‘I got it, I am going to go get her,'” Beavers said.

What happened next was a blur. Beavers also had 3-month-old Messiah out on the water with her.

As Morris tried to save Serenity he began struggling.

“Leland was screaming, ‘Help, help, call 911,'” Beavers said.

Studies show more people drown on lakes than in swimming pools.

Beavers says she thought she knew how to swim and she thought Morris knew how to swim as well. But they both struggled in the conditions.

“I am watching him just flailing, trying to get the girls from going under,” she said. “I got off my raft and went under the water. The sand sunk under my feet.”

Bystanders helped pull both girls to shore, but by then Morris was underwater and no one could find him.

“It was happening too fast. It was all within a ten-minute increment. We got out of the pool, five minutes and everything went wrong,” Beavers said.

Diving teams located the man in the water but he was unresponsive. She says Morris gave his own life for the girls he adored.

“Leland was a hero. These kids called him hero every day. I didn’t expect for him to be gone this soon,” she said.

Water safety experts say lakes can often be more difficult for people who are not strong swimmers because there can be steep drop-offs that can’t be seen from the surface.

Morris’ family has created a GoFundMe page to help cover funeral expenses. To donate, click here.

Esme Murphy