53-Year-Old Man Dies After Saving Woman from Drowning in Colorado River: 'Definition of a True Hero'

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A 53-year-old man from Utah died this week after he attempted to save a person from drowning in a river, authorities announced.

According to Utah's Grand County Sheriff's Office, the body of Clay Petty was found Tuesday morning more than a mile from where he went missing two days earlier along the Colorado River.

Before his disappearance, Petty had "attempted to help someone across the river" before he was "swept downstream," the sheriff said.

Petty's daughter told NBC affiliate KSL-TV that her father appeared to lose his footing while trying to save a 63-year-old woman from drowning.

A family friend, Tenika Dawn, told the news station that Petty lived an "epic life."

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Clay Petty
Clay Petty

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"He's one of the strongest, most determined people you'll ever meet," she said. "And no matter what kind of situation he was in, ever gotten into, he was able to get out of it and make it look easy."

The circumstances around Petty's death left an impression on many social media users.

"This man traded his life for another, without a thought for his own safety," a commenter wrote on Facebook. "That is the definition of a true hero!"

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Added another: "Such a good guy! My heart hurts for his family and friends, and he had a lot of those."

A GoFundMe for Petty's family has raised over $2,500 as of Wednesday afternoon.

Dawn told KSL-TV that during the two-day-long search for Petty, she and the family held on to hope he would be found alive.

"I just can't imagine, I can't imagine him not being here anymore," she said. "I could see him totally, you know, throwing himself into a disaster scenario to save someone else from it. That's Clay. That's who he was."