Lifestyle & Human Interest

Tragic: Teacher Dies Trying to Save Teen from Dangerous Water Conditions at Lake Michigan


Tragedy struck a community in St. Petersburg, Florida, after a beloved teacher, author, husband and father died trying to save a teen in distress at Lake Michigan.

Thomas Kenning, 38, who taught at a middle school, was at Porter Beach, Lake Michigan, with family on Monday when he saw a teen girl struggling out in the water.

After striking out into the waves, Kenning was pulled under and disappeared for around 15 minutes.

“A female teen in the water was in distress and the gentleman went into the water and attempted to rescue her,” Porter Fire Department Chief Jay Craig said, according to a post by the Town of Chesterton.

“She made it out with the assistance of lifeguards from Dunes State Park but he got sucked under. Once they got her out they went back looking for the man.”

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The nearby Indiana Dunes State Park beach had been closed to swimming as the area was experiencing “dangerous conditions,” conditions that sadly became apparent a little too late.

Eventually, Indiana Dunes State Park lifeguards found Kenning and immediately took him to shore and started CPR.

“CFD Chief Eric Camel estimated that the man may have been in the water 15 minutes before the lifeguards found him, in the waves approximately 20 to 30 feet from shore, just west of the Indiana Dunes State Park beach,” the Town of Chesteron’s post continued.

Kenning was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Despite the sad outcome, Craig still recognized the bravery of the lifeguards who saved the girl and brought Kenning to shore.

“The lifeguards were the true miracle workers today,” Craig said. “They did the best job they could under difficult conditions. They never gave up. They did a phenomenal job.”

Friends of the family started a GoFundMe for Kenning’s wife and daughter.

“While we mourn the tragic loss of such an incredible person, we want to offer support for his family during this difficult time, especially his wife, Jasmine, and daughter, Rory,” the page stated.

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“Tom truly believed in the best of people and sought to ‘leave the planet a little bit nicer than he found it.’ As such, a portion of these donations will go to support nonprofits that Tom loved and believed in.”

So far the fundraiser sits at $40,849 after just two days.

The family, who was present at the time of the accident, is remembering him as a true hero who proved his love for others in his final moments.

“My last image is of him standing in the water holding his hand out to her,” Kenning’s mother, Sharon, told WTSP-TV.

“Everywhere he went he embraced his environment and his surroundings. He wrote books about it to share with people to try and open their eyes to the things around them.”

“His last breath was literally for someone else,” his wife Jasmine said.

Even his students were unsurprised that their teacher died trying to save someone else, a true testament to his character.

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking