Daughter of drowned man praises dad

62-year-old was trying to save 10-year-old grandson after caught in rip current

By Kent Justice - Anchor/reporter

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. - Just off the beach at Hanna Park on Wednesday, Rebekah Zelenka's father lost his life, apparently caught in a rip current while crashing waves with his 10-year-old grandson Garrett.

"I really think Mother Nature just got him," Zelenka said of her 62-year-old father, Paul Demshar. "I don't think he could fight it anymore."

Zelenka, the wife of former Jaguars longsnapper Joe Zelenka, said she's still in shock.

"Trying to figure out why yesterday morning I was planning on packing my family to come down and vacation with my parents, and now we're planning a funeral and trying to get a body home," she said.

People saw Demshar and his grandson, Zelenka's nephew, playing in the waves and then separated and screaming.

"Garrett, did you panic? Were you scared? You were screaming right?" Zelenka asked the boy while doing a phone interview Thursday.

"Yes, they both were," Zelenka told Channel 4's Kent Justice. "And my mom thought they were kind of goofing off. But Papa, I guess, pushed Garrett toward the shore, told him, 'Go get Grammy, you'll be fine.'"

That screaming grabbed the attention of several people nearby, and Garrett escaped the rip current.

Demshar may have given his life for his grandson, something Zelenka said her family will always remember.

"When people die, people come out of the woodwork saying praising things," Zelenka said. "But really, before I met Joe, my dad was the most Godly man I've ever known."

"I told Garrett he would have done that for anyone. That's the kind of man he was," she added. "My dad felt Jesus made the greatest sacrifice, but certainly he could give his life for someone. And he's Garrett's superhero. He was his hero while he was here."

It's been an incredibly difficult year for the Zelenka family already. Joe's father died suddenly in December. His dog died on his birthday in March. And now this.

Copyright 2013 by News4Jax.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.