Thomas Zakrewski, 46, was visiting southwest Florida from Georgia with his wife and daughter.
The three were walking along a sandbar at Captiva Island near Fort Myers on Tuesday, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
His wife walked ahead of them but glanced back and saw Zakrewski and his daughter struggling in the Gulf of Mexico, police said.
The woman immediately jumped in, and her husband passed her the girl.
He struggled to stay afloat and stopped coming up for air, police said.
The sheriff’s office said it deployed its marine and aviation units to search for Zakrewski, with additional crews from the US Coast Guard, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Sanibel and Captiva fire departments.
Conditions were “extremely poor,” officials said, and rough waters and winds hindered the marine emergency response team’s search efforts.
Officials recovered Zakrewski’s body about 9:54 p.m. Tuesday.
He was probably caught in a powerful rip current, officials said
Gary Levine of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said it appeared that Zakrewski was caught in a rip current, a powerful and quick-moving channel of water common in the Gulf of Mexico.