Those who knew Gary Simard say he would risk his life all over again trying to save his family, just as he did when the 44-year-old father ran into the ocean after a rip tide carried his 13-year-old son away at Salisbury Beach.
Simard and a pair of bystanders attempted to rescue the Methuen man’s child just before 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, after the child yelled for help while being swept from shore.
But while the two Good Samaritans and teen returned, emergency crews later found Simard 50-70 yards from shore and attempted to save his life before he was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
“If the situation presented itself again, I know he would do the same thing – he would risk it all,” Alexis Wronski, Simard’s partner of 15 years, told 7NEWS.
The 44 year old’s family said they were still in a state of shock on Thursday as they made funeral arrangements. They described Simard as an inspiration, a hard-worker, and a father who lived for his family.
“Gary was a very strong and hard-working man – he was obsessed with doing more and getting more and being more and he just never stopped,” Wronski said.
Simard’s family said they also hope to soon meet the two men who leapt into action with Gary, including Jason Iarossi, who described the moments leading up to his snap decision to help alongside Kenny Crosby.
“I think when it was happening, I said to myself ‘If I stand here and don’t go in the water, I don’t know if I’ll ever have peace again, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to live with myself,” Iarossi said. “I was the third one in – the first was the father, then Kenny, then me.”
Iarossi said that as they swam out, Simard was struggling in the water, so he and Crosby rescued the child.
“And the boy’s saying to me – ‘Am I going to die, am I going to die?’ and I said ‘No, you’re not gonna die,” he recounted.
The Essex District Attorney’s Office said both Salisbury police and firefighters were later called to the area of 266 North End Blvd where crews located Simard and immediately began taking life-saving measures on the beach.
Simard was then taken to Seabrook Emergency Room where he was pronounced dead.
Wronski told 7NEWS Simard was recently promoted to financial manager at the MINI Cooper dealership he worked at in Peabody. She said he handled everything, made each day fun, and was a wonderful father to their four children.
“He taught the children to love Hulk and superheroes because he really thinks he’s Hulk and that’s how he lived his life and he proved to them he’s a superhero,” she said. “He did it – he saved my baby and I couldn’t save him.”
A GoFundMe campaign created for Simard’s family can be found here.
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