PEEKSKILL, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – A 52-year-old man has drowned after plunging into the Hudson River to help his seven-year-old niece.

Family members told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello that their brother’s actions were heroic.

“My brother’s a hero! He gave up his life for that little girl,” said Craig Baisley.

Westchester County police said that Christopher Baisley jumped into the river near Peekskill late on Friday afternoon, as the young girl struggled to hold on to a raft tied to the family’s boat.

Officials told The Journal News that the man got the girl back on the raft, and two other children were able to reel her in. But the Putnam County man never made it back to the drifting boat.

The children spent a frightening hour alone on the boat trying to reach help, they eventually figured out how to use the radio and called the Coast Guard.

His body was later recovered downriver.

Family members said that Baisley was comfortable in and around the water.

“He was a lifeguard when he was 18, he scuba dived in the Caribbean, all he did was swim and swim,” said Albert Baisley.

Autopsy results are not complete but the family believes that the victim may have suffered a sudden asthma attack in the water.

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