A day of fun turned into a day of tragedy for a Northwest Volunteer Firefighter from Brunswick County.
Friends and family are remembering the life of 17-year-old Daniel Gralak who was killed in a violent boat accident over the weekend.
According to Scott Garner, deputy director of Brunswick Emergency Services, Gralak and another passenger were critically injured when their jon boat hit a pylon near the west end of Sunset Harbor.
According to Officer Brandon Dean with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, a different fisherman took both men from the Sunset Harbor area to Blue Water Point Marina in Oak Island. Moments later, crews from Brunswick County EMS arrived.
From there, the two men were taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center with life-threatening injuries. Gralak was later pronounced dead.
Nearly two dozen family members and friends came to the hospital Monday to say their final goodbyes to the young man who they say died too soon. His parents, Danny and Missy Gralak are still in shock over what happened.
"He was my heart. He was my back bone and my heart," said Danny. "Everything I've done I've done it for him. That's what's going to get me. That's the part that really hurts."
"It's indescribable," said Missie. "It feels like someone is grabbing into you and twisting and twisting and won't let go."
Now, this heartbroken family is working to turn their tragic story into a positive outcome for others. On Monday night, a flag flies high above New Hanover Regional Medical Center, in honor of Daniel, because his parents decided to donate his organs to people in need.
"Daniel wouldn't want it any other way," said Missie. "His life is going to contribute to many other people getting saved and finding Jesus in their hearts."
His father hopes this accident will help others recognize the importance of family.
"Make sure you tell them you love them every chance you get because you never know when the last day is going to be," said Danny.
The Gralak family said they may never get over the lost of their only son but they have found comfort in knowing that his organs will be donated to six other people in need. With that, Danny and Missie say their son's legacy will continue to live on.
The Gralak family is accepting visitors from 5 to 8 p.m. On Wednesday night at the Wilmington Funeral and Cremation Funeral Home on 41st Street.
Funeral arrangements have been set for Thursday at 11 a.m. at the First Baptist Church in Leland.
The Northwest Volunteer Fire Department is also planning to do a memorial in the near future to honor their fallen brother.
Sunday, the Northwest Volunteer Fire Department posted the following message on its Facebook page:
"Prayers for Daniel's family. Unfortunately he did not make it. Prayers still requested for Dusty. He was the other person on the boat. Daniel aka Honey Bear was a fine young man."
The other victim in the crash, Dustin Greiner is recovering in the ICU at the hospital after two surgeries, according to Northwest Volunteer Fire Department Chief Charles Herzig.
The NC Wildlife Resources Commission is investigating the incident.
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