Updated 04/15/12 – 4:19 p.m.
DES PLAINES, Ill. (CBS) — A man who neighbors say was devoted to caring for the swans of a Des Plaines area apartment complex might have paid for that devotion with his life.
CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli has the story of a Villa Park man who died in what witnesses say was a freak incident.
Early Saturday, Anthony Hensley, 37, was in a kayak on a pond at an apartment complex in the 9300 block of Bay Colony Drive in an unincorporated area of Cook County near Des Plaines, checking on swans that were kept at the pond to keep geese away. Officials said he either got too close to the swans, or their nest, when one of the birds swam towards his kayak, and the kayak flipped over.
“His kayak wasn’t upside down, but it was, like, upwards,” eyewitness Daniel Gamanov said “You could see the tip of it.”
Gamanov saw the tragedy unfold right outside his family’s apartment Saturday morning. He and his friends watched as Hensley’s body was pulled from the pond.
It was Hensley’ job to care for the swans at the Bay Colony Drive apartment complex near Des Plaines, but Saturday morning something went wrong, and there was an altercation with at least one of the large birds.
“They probably thought that he was going too close to their eggs, and they were too scared, and they just attacked him,” Gamanov said.
He was awakened by a witness pounding on his apartment window, screaming for someone to call police. By the time he looked out, he could see the kayak, but could see no sign of Hensley.
Witnesses said Hensley came up at least once after his kayak tipped in the pond, but by the time police finally pulled him out of the water, more than a half hour had passed.
An autopsy Sunday afternoon determined Hensley drowned.
According to his father, Hensley was a good swimmer, but he ended up in the water while fully clothed and wearing boots. To make the situation worse, police said 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 their daddy never made it home from work.
His father, Raymond Hensley, said “They’re too young. They just know their father is not here, and they don’t know why. It’s tragic for him to have to spend the last few moments like that. That’s always my worst fear, drowning.”
Anthony 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,” Tony Macri said.
He also spoke of how his sister and nieces are now without a bread-winner, and without a secure future.
“I just want to say it’s very evident that he’s well-loved in the community, it would be great if the community could come together for the family,” he said.
The family now must come to grips with the fact that they have to say goodbye to a 37-year-old father known for his sense of humor, and his devotion to his family.
“He’s going to be remembered as one of the most wonderful fathers in the world. A very good father, a very good husband; there wasn’t a mean bone in his body,” his father said.
If you would like to help out the Hensley family, donations are being accepted in lieu of flowers:
c/o Steuerle Funeral Home
350 S. Ardmore Ave.
Villa Park, IL 60181
The wake is set for Wednesday afternoon at 2 p.m.