Family mourns loss of teen who drowned while saving girlfriend, niece

Family members are remembering the life of a young man who died while saving the lives of two others.

NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) - Family members are remembering the life of a young man who died while saving the lives of two others.

Christopher Joyner drowned in Ocean View Saturday evening. The 19-year-old went swimming in the ocean with his girlfriend and 12-year-old niece when the waves became too rough. Christopher managed to push the girls the shore, but he couldn’t save himself.

Christopher’s mother Peggy Harris was watching them from her beachfront home when she heard screaming.

“Saturday was my birthday. They all wanted to go swimming. I seen my granddaughter yelling so I opened the sliding door and I was like, ‘What?’ She said Chris went under and he hasn’t come back up, so I bolted – ran down there screaming,” she said.

Rescue crews were able to pull Chris from the water, thanks to the help of a neighbor who spotted him.

“My neighbor Paul and his wife Susan were on their balcony. He (Paul) spotted him. He used to be in the military, and he did the man overboard signal to the (rescue) boat, and that’s why they found my son,” Peggy said.

Medics started performing CPR on Chris, but he died at the hospital.   

“They revived him. He had a heart rate, I have his last heart beat upstairs on a piece of paper. He died at 7:26 p.m. My son went to the hospital without me and he passed away while I was still being held here. My son died while I was here,” Peggy said.

Peggy didn't get a chance to say goodbye. The reality of that horrific day still hasn't sunk in.

“He called me every day, and I haven't gotten that call today,” she said.

Christopher was a bright young man. He just graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Portsmouth and was looking to go into the military. Peggy says he was generous and kind—always putting others first. She wants people to remember her son as a hero who would do anything to help others.

“He sacrificed himself for them, which makes me a proud mama. He was just an awesome kid. He was great and I love him, and I want him back but I can't get that,” he said.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family with funeral costs. Donations can be made here

© 2017 WVEC-TV


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