OTTAWA ó A family vacation in Cuba turned tragic when a 40-year-old Ottawa man drowned saving his son.
The close-knit Chinese community here is now rallying around the family of Yue Liu, who died at a beach resort in Varadero, Cuba, on March 19, according to a family friend.
"He was a great father," said Andy Wang. "He just wanted to work hard and take care of his family."
It was a few days into their holiday at the popular tourist spot while Liu and his seven-year-old son played in the ocean, in shallow water.
His wife, Fanyan Bu, and nine-year-old daughter, were on the beach.
A rip tide dragged the pair out into the ocean. Liu grabbed onto his son, trying to keep him afloat.
As he screamed for help, another tourist jumped into the water and took his son from his hands.
"I cannot save you anymore," were Liu's last words, according to Wang.
As the boy was safely brought to shore, Liu was dragged farther out to sea.
A resort lifeguard and other vacationers were able get Liu back to shore, but resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful.
Bu has since returned with her children to Ottawa.
Liu, who immigrated to Canada from Beijing, had lived in the capital for more than a decade.
The family had no travel insurance, and now friends are rallying to help.
Transporting his body back to Ottawa, as well as a funeral, would cost an estimated $30,000.
A webpage has been set-up to help raise funds at http://comefromchina.com/liuyue/.
Canadian consular officials in Canada and Cuba are providing support to the family, foreign affairs officials said Monday.