By Mike Puccinelli
Cook County, IL (WBBM/CNN) - An Illinois man drowned Saturday caring the beloved swans of an apartment complex near Des Plaines.
Witnesses say it was a freak accident.
"His kayak wasn't upside down, but it was, like, upwards. You could see the tip of it," said witness Daniel Gamanov.
Gamanov talks about a tragedy he saw right outside his family's apartment.
"There was a do not cross line and they were pulling him out right there," he said.
He was referring to Anthony Hensley. It was his job to care for the swans at the Bay Colony Drive complex near Des Plaines. Something went wrong, and there was an altercation with the birds.
"They just attacked him," said Gamanov.
Gamanov was awakened by a witness pounding on his window, screaming for someone to call police.
By the time he looked out, he could see the kayak, but not Hensley.
Witnesses say Hensley came up at least once after he initially fell into the pond, but by the time police were finally able to pull him out, more than half an hour had passed.
According to his father, Hensley was a good swimmer, but he ended up in the water clothed and wearing boots. To make the situation worse, police say the swans continued to swim at Hensley as he tried to make it to shore.
His two daughters are so young they have yet to be told.
"They just know they're father's not here and they don't know why. It's a tragedy that he had to spend the last few moments like that," said Hensley's father, Raymond Hensley.
Hensley's wife of four years was too distraught to talk about her loss, so her brother spoke for her.
"He's my brother-in-law and I'm going to miss him," said Tony Macri.
He also spoke about how his sister and nieces are now without a secure future.
"And he's like well-loved in the community. It would be great if the community could come together for the family," said Macri.
A family that today must come to grips with the fact that they have to say goodbye to a 37-year-old dad who went to work and never came home.
Officials say Hensley either got too close to the swans or their nest when the bird attacked, causing him to flip over in the kayak.