Published: 00:01, 23 May 2014 |
Tony Wilkinson, from Hawkhurst, was on a beach off Jamaica's south coast with his partner - journalist Decca Aitkenhead - when one of their two sons was pulled out to sea after paddling in the waves.
The 49-year-old swam out and rescued the youngster before Ms Aitkenhead, an award-winning writer for The Guardian, headed into the water and brought their child back to safety.
But the current proved too strong for Mr Wilkinson to swim back.
Fisherman from the local village in Calabash Bay rushed to his aid but the heroic dad died before they could bring him back to the shore.
Witnesses said Mr Wilkinson asked his helpers whether his son was safe before he collapsed just after 8.30am last Thursday.
"Tony would help anyone in trouble. Even if it hadn't been his son in the water, he would have gone in there to help them..." - friend Luke Forde
The couple's children have been named as Jake, aged four, and three-year-old Joe. It is believed to have been Jake who was saved.
Mr Wilkinson, who also leaves behind a teenage daughter called Hero, worked at Kids Company, a charity founded by campaigner Camila Batmanghelidjh in 1996 to help vulnerable inner-city children.
He joined in 2009 as an outreach worker, while studying psychology and criminology at the University of Westminster.
His role was helping young people in and around London, including many who are affiliated with gangs.
The organisation has opened a book of condolences for the well-loved colleague.
Close friend and co-worker Luke Forde said: "The kids really respected Tony.
"He was always honest and if he had something to say, he would just say it. What you saw was what you got with him.
"Tony would help anyone in trouble. Even if it hadn't been his son in the water, he would have gone in there to help them."
Mr Wilkinson previously ran a home conversion business and had launched an organic deli in east London.
It is understood the father-of-three's funeral will take place next month, but it is unknown where the service will be held.
The family is thought to have only moved to the village about a year ago.
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