N.S. man drowns while rescuing son at waterfall near Tatamagouche

Sam London drowned Tuesday afternoon at Drysdale Falls near Tatamagouche (GoFundMe campaign photo)

A summer swimming tragedy has claimed the life of a Halifax firefighter.

Sam London drowned Tuesday afternoon at Drysdale Falls near Tatamagouche, N.S., a well-known swimming spot that features a 12-metre waterfall.

Mike Smith, London’s father-in-law, says London saved his own son from drowning before being pulled under by a strong undercurrent.

“He was a hero father, a hero husband, son-in-law -- hero,” Smith said.

Police say the special hazards response unit of the Bible Hill Fire Department rescued two members of the man’s family.

“One member of the family did try to rescue him and was not able to do so, and we did require assistance from Colchester Fire Department with a very technical rescue,” said Nova Scotia RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Jennifer Clarke.

The waterfall along Bailey's Brook is popular with thrill-seekers, some of whom have posted videos online showing people jumping from the edge of the falls.

The flag at Fire Station 18 was at half-mast on Thursday to honour the loss of one of their own.

The 38-year-old London was a firefighter who served at the station and colleagues are trying to deal with the loss.

Joe Triff was a volunteer firefighter with London at the same station, before London joined Halifax Fire 15 years ago.

“Our thoughts are with Sam's wife, kids, family, friends,” Triff said. “There's nothing that we could say that could ease the pain that everyone is feeling right now.”

For London's family, the pain is deep after the sudden death of a man described by all as a devoted husband and father and always full of joy.

“I've unfortunately had to make some of those phone calls that nobody wants to make, and the response is what you could never imagine,” said Smith, who is a retired firefighter himself.

There has been a drowning at Drysdale Falls before and, at the urging of the family on Thursday, they issued a warning.

“To be aware of the dangers of swimming in pools like that,” Triff said. “They would like to see this tragedy be the last tragedy out there.”

London is the fourth firefighter In Nova Scotia to die this year. Two were volunteers and the other was Truro firefighter Skyler Blackie, who died in March after a training accident.

For Smith, the sadness is almost unbearable, but help from community offers some comfort.

Many are also donating to a GoFundMe campaign set up to support London's family.

Funeral arrangements for London are being made and the date is not yet set.

It will be a funeral service honouring an active firefighter who died while off duty.

The ceremony will include an honor guard and pipe band tribute for a young fire fighter gone tragically soon.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Heidi Petracek