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Oregon man dies after rescuing drowning boy in Micronesia

(Update: Adding video, comments from parents and brother)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- According to authorities, a 30-year-old man with ties to Central Oregon died after sacrificing his life to rescue a drowning boy in the Federated States of Micronesia.

The grieving parents of the victim, Lee Huddleston of Eugene, live in Bend. They spoke with NewsChannel 21 on Tuesday, less than a day after they learned of his passing.

Huddleston's stepmother, Anne Huddleston, said the U.S. Embassy in Micronesia told her and her husband, Duane, that Huddleston had lost his life after rescuing a young boy who was drowning in the waters off the island of Moch. 

She said authorities in Micronesia told them the young boy survived, but Lee's heart gave out on the beach.

Huddleston said Lee spent two years in Weno, Chuuk, Micronesia as a member of the Peace Corps. Lee studied language teaching studies at the University of Oregon and graduated with his master's degree in 2018.

Before he moved to Micronesia, Lee lived in Aktau, Kazakhstan. His parents said he had left a piece of his heart in Micronesia, and after serving in the Peace Corps, he decided to accept a teaching job there last summer.

His parents describe Lee as “a gung-ho adventurer who overcame much and who was loved by all who knew him.”

His father, Duane, posted the following statement on his Facebook page, along with a photo of Lee in Micronesia.

“Dear Lee, I love you so much, Lee, and will always prize the many years that we had together. I know you are now resting in the arms of God and that someday ... someday if all goes well, I'll be able to join you there. See you then, Dad.”

Duane Huddleston told NewsChannel 21 his son overcame many personal obstacles, including being born with strabismus which resulted in a physical dyspraxia, or developmental coordination disorder. 

Huddleston said Lee underwent rehabilitation as a child to develop his co-ordination. Still, he said, he never let his problems stand in his way, and instead grabbed life by the horns. 

"As a child, when we went on walks in the outdoors, he would clumsily run ahead, wanting to be the first to reach whatever was around the next bend," Huddleston said. "Now, he's doing it again, but not clumsily. He died as a hero, and the entire island of Moch is grieving with us."

Anne Huddleston said Lee died doing what he loved.

"He loved the little kids, and it's no big surprise that he was going out and going to save this kid," she said.

Lee's younger brother, James, added that Lee was "the best brother I could ever ask for."

Lee Huddleston leaves behind four brothers and a sister. His parents told NewsChannel 21 his remains will stay in Micronesia, where he was loved by many.

Article Topic Follows: Central Oregon

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Rhea Panela

Rhea Panela is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Rhea here.


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