Man died on Lake Norman trying to save others, witness says

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Jeffery Cooper pictured with his son. Cooper drowned after jumping off a pontoon boat on Lake Norman on Saturday, officials say. (Credit: Cooper's family)

A man drowned on the waters Lake Norman trying to help others over the weekend. 

“It was just an unfortunate accident that he died trying to save someone else,” Christopher Legrand told FOX 46. "There's nothing that we can do to take that away, but few people die a hero." 

Legrand barely knew the victim, 32-year-old Jeffery "Jay" Cooper, but says that his heroic actions will be remembered.

“We were kind of all in shock,” Legrand said. “I don’t think we really spoke to each other beyond what was required.” 

Legrand says their group of 11 guys were on the lake for maybe 20 minutes when tragedy struck. He says Cooper was one of the four guys in the water at time when two of their friends struggled to get back to the boat.

LINK: Father drowns while on pontoon on Lake Norman

Before Cooper could reach the men they were rescued by a third man who was on an inner tube. Legrand said Cooper was not wearing a life jacket at the time and did not resurface.

“We noticed Jeff started struggling and all of the attention was on the three other people, so when he [Cooper] started struggling, he was further way from the boat, and we couldn’t get to him in time. We were afraid if we threw something out there he wouldn’t reach it,” said Legrand. “He came up and surfaced maybe once or twice and by the time Brandon got to where he was at he didn’t resurface.” 

The guys frantically called 911 and tried to get people on jet skis and other boats to stop, but no one did. 

“We watched and it was like the hardest thing and you're helpless you can do anything.” 

Authorities later recovered Cooper's body and add the water was 60 feet deep where he went under. 

While Legrand and others in that pontoon boat try to make sense of what was supposed to be a fun Saturday on the lake, he says being grateful for every day becomes even more important. 

“If you have somebody you love just hug them a little bit tighter just be there and enjoy. Put little things aside because tomorrow isn't promised.”