Josh Graham died at Surfside Beach while saving his two sons on Saturday
Josh Graham Texas father
Josh Graham
| Credit: Facebook

A Texas father is being hailed as a hero after he died while saving his two sons from a strong riptide during a family outing to the beach on Saturday.

Josh Graham was with his wife Angela and their children at Surfside Beach when the accident occurred about 50 feet offshore, Angela wrote on a GoFundMe page.

"We lost the love of my life, my soulmate, the best father to my son and stepsons, a loving son and brother, grandson, nephew, cousin and a dear friend to so many," she wrote. "He died a hero saving our two oldest boys from drowning in a riptide in Surfside Beach, TX."

Angela wrote that she was grateful for the "countless strangers" who dove into the ocean to try and save Graham, and that she watched "helplessly" as her sons were brought to safety while her husband remained in the water.

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"It feels as if this happened to someone else, like a horror movie, my worst nightmare," she wrote. "Perhaps that is why I am able to find the strength to write this. I am torn to pieces and my soul has been ripped from my body."

The couple celebrated their first wedding anniversary in March, according to Graham's Facebook page.

Mike Lampson and Rodney Sanders were among the kind strangers who jumped in to help, and both are military-trained in survival swimming, they told CBS affiliate KHOU.

"This interview's not for me, this is for Josh. We feel that we needed to tell his side of the story. He died protecting his kids, and he's the hero here," Lampson told the outlet.

Sanders said he and others spent about 20 minutes fighting strong currents in the water before they were able to reach an unresponsive Graham.

At that point, Lampson said someone brought a surfboard, and they were able to bring Graham back to safety by getting him onto the board and starting chest compressions. Due to the strong current, the rescuers eventually linked arms to help get Graham to shore.

"His kids got stuck in that rip current. Josh is the hero," Sanders told KHOU. "He went out there. He paid the ultimate sacrifice. He gave his life for his kids."

The GoFundMe, which is collecting money for funeral expenses, grief counseling and college funds for the boys, has so far raised nearly $17,000.