Vacationing with a friend, Kelsie Habecker on Saturday afternoon took special notice of a family of four playing on the beach.
Not long after, she came to their rescue when Joao F. Pinteus disappeared in the choppy Gulf of Mexico where he had been frolicking with his 10-year-old son.
Habecker and her friend pulled the 35-year-old Canadian tourist from the water after the boy called for help. Pinteus was taken to Palms of Pasadena Hospital, where he died about 10 a.m. Wednesday.
"We were talking about what a happy family they were," said Habecker, a registered nurse from Canada. "They were having lots of fun."
St. Pete Beach police were called to the accident about 3 p.m. Saturday in the 4500 block of Gulf Boulevard. Pinteus' wife, Filomena, told police her husband was not a strong swimmer and was overcome by fatigue.
The Medical Examiner's Office will perform an autopsy.
Habecker said she was walking in the sand when she saw the boy emerge from the water, looking puzzled and saying something was lost. Habecker approached his mother, who was frantic, and told her to call 911.
Habecker and her friend spotted Pinteus, in black swimming trucks, lying face-down in the water. Several people, including a nurse from Morton Plant Hospital, performed CPR until paramedics arrived.
Pinteus' family was visiting St. Pete Beach from Missaussiga, Ontario. Most of his surviving family lives in Portugal, where he was born. Pinteus worked in building construction.
Pinteus was the fourth person in one week to die or be critically injured in water accidents in Pinellas County. On March 16, Dontrale Cooper, 6, fell into an abandoned pool and drowned.
Aaron Hopewell, who did not know how to swim, nearly drowned March 19 after he fell into a pool. He was taken to a hospital and released.
About 20 minutes before Pinteus disappeared in the gulf, Lonnell Bradley nearly drowned in a pool at his apartment complex. Lonnell, 6, is in serious condition at All Children's Hospital.
Pinteus is survived by his wife of 11 years; two sons; his parents; two brothers and a sister.
_ Times staff writer Amy Morrison contributed to this report.