Man drowns in Jordan Lake trying to rescue his daughter

CHATHAM COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Chatham County Sheriff's Deputies said a 41-year-old man drowned at Jordan Lake on Saturday.

Deputies got the call just before 5 p.m. According to officials, Leonard Purcell was swimming at Ebenezer Recreational Area with his family and friends.

A park ranger said Purcell thought his daughter was in distress and swam out to help her. On Sunday, his family spoke with ABC11 about the kind of man, father, and friend he was.

"He gave up his life, he sacrificed his life for his child's life, that's the kind of man he was," said Selma Little when asked about her cousin Leonard Joe Purcell.

The ranger said Purcell was a swimmer, and there was a bit of a current, but nothing unusual.

"My cousin died being a hero, because he did just like our Heavenly Father does, he watches over us, he looks out for us, cares for his children," said Little.

Little said Purcell jumped in, despite recovering from a surgery he had earlier in the week.

"He's looking down on us, and he did something any parent would do if they see their child in trouble," said Little.

Little said she was driving on I-95 when she got the call about her cousin. Flanked by relatives and Purcell's three young daughters, she told Eyewitness News her cousin was a quiet man who loved his family. She said he grew up in Angier, along Church Street, and went to Harnett Central High School.

Little said that they have a big family that can lean on each other during this tough time. They said they're finding comfort that Purcell spent his last day with loved ones.

"His last day was spent with his family," said Little.

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