A brave Illinois father died after jumping into the Mississippi River in an attempt to save his drowning older son — and one of their serene final moments together was bittersweetly captured on camera.
Malik Williams, who welcomed his second child just two weeks ago, was fishing with his family at Ben Butterworth Park in Moline, Illinois, on Tuesday, when his 6-year-old son, Jaden, fell into the water.
“Malik’s first instinct was to save his baby, so he jumped in not knowing how to swim trying to do everything he could to save Jaden,” according to the statement on the family’s GoFundMe page.
Williams, 25, drowned while Jaden was rescued by a bystander, according to the Moline Police Department.
But right before the tragic incident, a 16-year-old passerby snapped a shot of the father and son in front of a beautiful sunset.
“I was on the dock taking pictures of the sunset and I saw them,” Riley Gomez told Inside Edition. “When I was going home, I turned around to see the sunset one last time and the little boy wasn’t on the dock anymore. Then I saw his father jump in.”
Gomez told the outlet that when Williams’ fiancée and high school sweetheart, Heather, began screaming, she and another Good Samaritan, Von Thang, jumped into the water to save the father and son.
“She was yelling, ‘Help me, help me! They can’t swim! They can’t swim!’ ” said Gomez. “I tried everything … I keep having dreams that I actually did save [Williams]. It still seems unreal to me.”
Gomez and Thang pulled Jaden to safety, but were unable to reach Williams.
“He seemed like an amazing father — he knew he couldn’t swim and he sacrificed his life to save his child. He’ll always be remembered as a hero,” added Gomez. “Knowing that there was one last thing I was able to give to that family, I’m really glad I did take that picture.”
Officials were unable to locate Williams’ body, and on Wednesday rescue efforts were suspended.
“By the time Jaden got out, Malik was taken by the current. After two searches of the Mississippi River there was no luck of finding Malik,” according to the family’s GoFundMe page.