CEDAR CITY — The father who drowned rescuing his young son on a boating trip Wednesday always put "family first," a neighbor said.

Jeremy William Gunter, 35, of Cedar City, drowned on a boating trip at Otter Creek Reservoir when he jumped into the cold water to help his 12-year-old son, Piute County Sheriff Marty Gleave said.

Neither father nor son were wearing life jackets.

The boy had reportedly jumped out of the boat to retrieve a hat that had blown into the water, and he began to struggle, Gleave said. Gunter helped his son make it back to the boat, then went under the water.

Jeff Okeson, who has lived near the Gunters for more than 10 years, said his neighbor, a father of three and an avid fisherman, was first and foremost a family man.

"He would do anything and everything for his family," Okeson said. "He's a hard worker, providing for his family, to make sure they have everything they need."

Gunter had been working with his brother in a North Dakota trucking company in order to support his family, returning home about every other weekend, Okeson said.

"Jeremy is definitely a hero," he said, adding that he believes his neighbor jumped in after his son without a moment's hesitation. "He would do it for a stranger. That's just the kind of guy he was."

Gunter's sacrifice epitomized what a father should be, Okeson said with emotion in his voice.

— McKenzie Romero