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Man dies after trying to save friend caught in rip current

According to Palm Beach police, a man from Sanford died after trying to save his friend who was swept away by a rip current. (WPEC)

A trip to the beach ended in tragedy for two out-of-town coworkers.

According to Palm Beach police, a man from Sanford died after trying to save his friend who was swept away by a rip current.

It happened Tuesday afternoon at Clarke Avenue Beach off South Ocean Boulevard.

Kenneth Hutchenson is a life-long Florida resident and watched the terrifying incident unfold.

“They couldn’t fight the water,” he said. “They couldn’t fight the rip currents.”

Hutchenson was visibly shaken as he recalled what happened. He says he saw one of the men, later identified as 25-year-old Jason DeLeon, struggling in the turbulent waters.

DeLeon’s coworker, 51-year-old John Ussery, then jumped in to help but was also overcome by the rip current.

“I just feel so bad because I sat there for 10, 15 minutes watching the whole thing unfold, and I couldn’t do anything! It was a crazy experience,” Hutchenson said.

Hutchenson says he and his son also tried to rescue them but the water was just too powerful.

“I’m calling 911, I’m on the phone, I’m doing everything you’re supposed to do but nothing made a difference because time is of the essence in this situation. Water is not forgiving,” Hutchenson said.

According to the police report, the first officer on scene arrived on a motorcycle and didn’t have a floating device to help the two men.

Just one minute later, a second officer arrived with a buoy but couldn’t reach the two because the swells were too high.

The report stated a third officer was finally able to reach Ussery who said, “Thank goodness you made it, I didn’t have any strength left.”

Both men were pulled ashore, but Ussery later died at the hospital.

DeLeon and a first responder were taken to a hospital and treated for injuries but are expected to be okay.

DeLeon told police he and Ussery were in Palm Beach this week for a work trip.

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