A South Dakota sheriff’s deputy lost his life after jumping into a fast-moving river to save his 8-year-old son’s life. The officer was swept away by strong currents, while the boy survived, and was rescued from the water by another group of boaters.
The incident occurred on July 3, when Chief Deputy Lee Weber of Hughes County Sheriff’s Office was boating with his son on the Missouri River 2 miles northwest of Fort Pierre.
After the boy accidentally fell off the moving vessel, the 37-year-old officer dove overboard without a life jacket, according to his obituary. Weber made contact with his son in the water but was soon dragged under by strong currents.
“When you are trying to rescue somebody, if you are using a life jacket you can’t get under the water to grab them,” Stanley County’s Chief Deputy Greg Swanson told Capital Journal. “So, you’d go in without a life jacket … I would do that.”
The boy was pulled aboard a nearby vessel due to Weber’s efforts to keep him afloat, the family’s GoFundMe page explains.
A six-day search commenced for the missing deputy, involving a team of 18 local, state, and federal agencies using rescue boats, divers, drones, cadaver dogs, and a Highway Patrol airplane. Weber’s body was eventually recovered and identified by a volunteer searcher near a railroad bridge, 4 miles from the spot where he had jumped into the water.
The Sheriff’s Office extended their condolences to Weber’s family on social media.
“With heavy hearts we regret to announce the passing of Chief Deputy Lee Weber,” they posted on Facebook. “Our office extends our sincere condolences to the family.”
The officer’s colleagues hailed him as a mentor and a hero. He had been a member of the Sheriff’s Office since 2015 and was promoted to Chief Deputy after four years’ service. Weber was also a decorated veteran of the South Dakota National Guard and served both in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“He will be greatly missed by his law enforcement family and those whom he was sworn to serve,” the department added. “Rest easy 36-1W, we’ll hold the line from here.”
Weber is survived by his wife, Wendy, and six children: LaToya, Magnus, Amadeo, Lexinn, Emalee, and Samuel.
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