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Teacher dies after trying to save student from Lake Erie rip currents

CLEVELAND -- An Ohio teacher who died after trying to save a 9-year-old student from Lake Erie rip currents is being remembered for her selflessness as investigators try to determine why children on a school beach outing were in the water before lifeguards were on duty.

Laura Recco, 46, of Seven Hills dove into the water about 10:30 a.m. Monday when she saw two students, including Diamond Harris, 9, being pulled under at Bay Village’s Huntington Beach, about 10 miles west of Cleveland, according to reports.

Recco pulled one student out but when she went back for Harris, currents and waves up to 6 feet pulled her under, too, the Morning Journal newspaper of Lorain reported.

"The way she died is the perfect display of how selfless she was," Angelica Gagliardi, the older of Recco’s two daughters, tearfully told WEWS of Cleveland.


Although Cleveland Metroparks lifeguards weren’t due on duty until 11 a.m., Christian Pesarchick, 19, of Avon Lake was setting up and jumped in to try to save Recco and Harris, but he got into trouble in the water, too, NBC station WKYC of Cleveland reported.

About a half-dozen other lifeguards and passerby Clint Kranes, an Elyria resident and Navy veteran, and another teacher eventually pulled all three out of the water, WKYC reported.

The three were sent to St. John Medical Center. Pesarchick was released Monday. Harris was transferred to Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital and was released Tuesday, the Morning Journal newspaper of Lorain reported.

Recco died Wednesday morning, the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office said.

She was one of four teachers who came with Harris and four other students on the annual beach outing for the private nonprofit Positive Education Program, which serves 2,500 Cleveland-area children with special learning needs, WKYC reported.

Why some children and adults ventured into the water before the beach was officially open and with dangerous conditions on the lake is being investigated by both Metroparks Rangers and by the Positive Education Program, WKYC reported.

Gagliardi described her mother to the Morning Journal: “Best teacher. Best mother. Best grandmother. Best friend. None of those things even touch the surface of the woman my mom was and the woman my mom raised me to become. She was strong and respected and put everyone else before herself.”

PEP would not comment to msnbc.com or other news organizations.

On Wednesday it issued a statement: “Laura was one of our very finest teachers. Uniquely skilled at helping children build competencies, she was committed to helping every child know some joy in each day. She was deeply respected by her peers and was honored as PEP Hopewell’s Teacher-Counselor of the Year in 2006.”

The veteran teacher also leaves behind her husband, Frank.

Msnbc.com's Jim Gold contributed to this article. Follow him on Facebook here.

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