Long Island man dies saving nephew from drowning

MATTITUCK, Long Island (WABC) -- The daughter of the Central Islip man who lost his life saving his young nephew from drowning is calling her father a hero.


"My dad jumped in and tried to rescue him," Jessica Ortiz said. "They pulled him out, and then my dad since he doesn't know how to swim. He was so worried, he jumped and then he had no idea where he was going."

41-year-old Leonel Ortiz Lemus, a father of three, was hanging out with his family at the Mattituck Inlet Wednesday afternoon celebrating the Fourth of July. Several grown children had gone into the water, but so had his young nephew who the family said is 10 or 11 years old.

Ortiz said all of the sudden, the water got deeper, and they all couldn't stand. That's when Lemus jumped in and got his nephew out of the deep end. But Lemus didn't know how to swim, and no lifeguards are stationed at the Mattituck Inlet.

Ortiz tried to save her father.

"I grabbed his shirt, but then I was going under the water and I couldn't breathe, so I came out and I let go of his shirt maybe thinking he was still going to be there," she said. "But then when I tried to grab him, I couldn't because if I went further, I would have likely drowned."

Divers from the Southold Police Department recovered Lemus' body about an hour later just a short distance away on the shoreline.

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