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Loved ones mourn ‘inseparable’ father and son who drowned off Apollo Beach

Janosh Purackal and his son, Daniel, drowned after an accident at Apollo Beach Nature Preserve.
Pallbearers place the casket of Janosh Purackal, 37, next to his son’s casket at Hillsboro Memorial Gardens on Thursday. Purackal and his son Daniel Purackal, 3, drowned last week in Apollo Beach.
Pallbearers place the casket of Janosh Purackal, 37, next to his son’s casket at Hillsboro Memorial Gardens on Thursday. Purackal and his son Daniel Purackal, 3, drowned last week in Apollo Beach. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]
Published Jun. 18
Updated Jun. 18

He considered the priesthood but ultimately chose fatherhood.

Janosh Purackal and his eldest son, Daniel, were “inseparable,” friends and family said. The two loved nature and adventure. They loved to visit the Apollo Beach Nature Preserve — just a short drive from their house — and spend time on the beach.

Those close to the family still can’t understand how a trip to the preserve turned deadly last Friday when a current swept away Janosh, Daniel and a good Samaritan who tried to save them. They still can hardly believe it. “This is — I would really put it like an act of God,” said Jomin Kuryanal, a friend.

Related: An expert’s view on how 3 people were swept to their deaths in Apollo Beach

On Thursday, Friends and family stood in the St. Joseph Syro Malabar Catholic Church in Seffner and bowed their heads toward a portrait of Jesus. Beneath him sat two open caskets: one large, one small.

Janosh, 37, remembered as a kind, giving and deeply faithful man, lied in wake in his home parish. Next to him lied Daniel, who would have turned 4 years old in August. White angel’s wings, stitched with gold, framed Daniel’s body.

Janosh Purackal, 37, and his son Daniel Purackal, 3, drowned June 11, 2021, off the beach at the Apollo Beach Nature Preserve.
Janosh Purackal, 37, and his son Daniel Purackal, 3, drowned June 11, 2021, off the beach at the Apollo Beach Nature Preserve. [ Courtesy of family ]

Born in Basel, Switzerland and raised in Kerala, India, Janosh moved to the United States in 2009 to earn his master’s in electrical engineering at the University of South Florida. He worked as a software developer for phosphate company Mosaic.

In his early years in the U.S., Janosh grappled with God’s plan for him. Deeply devoted to his Catholic faith, Janosh seriously considered becoming a priest himself. He joined the Jesus Youth Movement, a Catholic ministry organization aimed at young people.

While he was studying at USF and discerning whether to join the priesthood, Janosh met Rajeev Philip. At the time, Philip was an undergraduate student, but as fellow devoted Catholics on campus, the two became close. They could often be seen hurrying to daily mass, a little late.

It’s fitting, Philip said, that Janosh and Daniel died on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, a holy day in the Catholic Church. “Our Lord was pointing at his heart, burning with love,” he said.

Grieving family members view the caskets of their lost loved ones at Hillsboro Memorial Gardens on Thursday. Janosh Purackal, 37, and Daniel Purackal, 3, drowned last week in Apollo Beach.
Grieving family members view the caskets of their lost loved ones at Hillsboro Memorial Gardens on Thursday. Janosh Purackal, 37, and Daniel Purackal, 3, drowned last week in Apollo Beach. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]

After their USF days, Philip entered the seminary and became a priest, while Janosh pursued family life.

In 2015, Janosh married Anitta Jacob, a nurse practitioner and native of Kerala, India. In 2017, Daniel was born, an energetic and joyful boy who quickly took after Janosh’s ways. Recently, they had a second son, Stefan, who will soon celebrate his first birthday.

Just a week before the Apollo Beach accident, the Purackal family took a trip to visit his old friend Kuryanal, who was living in Detroit. They spent the days outside in northern Michigan. Kuryanal is grateful for the time he got to spend with the family, especially the chance to watch Janosh and Daniel together.

Knowing how cautious and doting a father Janosh was, Kuryanal has a hard time making sense of his death, a drowning in a no-swimming zone. Recently, Kuryanal helped remove a car seat from Janosh’s car and saw just how carefully he had installed it to keep his child safe.

Daniel was very energetic and strong-willed, Kuryanal said, but he would listen to Janosh’s every word. He loved asking his father to tell stories. Kuryanal said he’s tried to model his own parenting style after Janosh’s. Janosh was the godfather to Kuryanal’s 1-year-old child.

Reno Varghese, Janosh’s younger cousin who hails from the U.S., delivered the eulogy. He recalled the time he first met Janosh in India. At the time, Varghese was “a sickly child,” he said, who was “scared of everything.”

The cousins visited an amusement park together. Varghese was furious with his mom, who made him wear a hair covering to protect his hair from the chlorinated water. Janosh, a teenager at the time, wore one too, in solidarity with his kid cousin.

“Janosh spent the entire time with me — even though he was a teenager who could’ve spent his time with his friends, could’ve went with his brother, could’ve done a lot of other things that day,” Varghese said. “But he spent the entire day with me.”

Anitta Janosh (wife of Janosh Purackal and mother of Daniel Purackal) is comforted by Daisy Varghese (aunt of Janosh Purackal) as her late husband and son’s caskets are lowered into the ground at Hillsboro Memorial Gardens on Thursday. Janosh Purackal, 37, and son Daniel Purackal, 3, drowned last week in Apollo Beach.
Anitta Janosh (wife of Janosh Purackal and mother of Daniel Purackal) is comforted by Daisy Varghese (aunt of Janosh Purackal) as her late husband and son’s caskets are lowered into the ground at Hillsboro Memorial Gardens on Thursday. Janosh Purackal, 37, and son Daniel Purackal, 3, drowned last week in Apollo Beach. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]

Soon after the funeral, more than 100 people gathered under the oak trees and the funeral tent at Hillsboro Memorial Gardens to say their final goodbyes. The crowd sang prayers in Malayalam, the language spoken in Janosh’s home state of Kerala.

The tune of those prayers is part of an ancient tradition in the Eastern Catholic Church, Philip said, a tradition that Janosh was deeply committed to preserving. The tune itself rises, Philip noted — an ancient sound that seems to lift upward.

“We’re trying to push them towards Heaven,” he said. “There’s this farewell, and there’s this lifting up.”