Just days after turning 22 and wedding his Bible college sweetheart, Dalton Cottrell, an Iowa pastor-in-training, drowned tragically while on his honeymoon in Florida on Tuesday.
The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office told the Florida Times-Union that Cottrell, who was a pastoral training major at Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary in Ankeny, Iowa, was pulled out of the surf at Crescent Beach, south of Jacksonville, about 1pm local time by a lifeguard and a beachgoer.
The beachgoer reported hearing someone yelling in the surf and then grabbing his paddleboard to head into the water. He, along with a St. Johns County lifeguard, placed Cottrell onto the paddleboard and returned to the beach. They tried to revive the pastor-in-training using CPR, but it wasn't enough to keep him alive.
His wife, Cheyenne Pernice-Hedrick, who is also 22, told deputies that it was her husband's first time in the ocean. They were both in the water when the current pulled them out deeper and he "started to freak out."
Cheyenne said she tried to help her husband who she wed on Saturday, but he was struggling and pulled her underwater.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday she shared how her short-lived "bliss" turned into a "nightmare."
"[Three] days of wedded bliss turned into a nightmare very quickly for the Cottrell family as well as mine own. Many of you know but more of you do not; so the family and I decided to put the awful news here on Facebook though this is not where I wish to place it or even have to say it," she began.
"Yesterday afternoon while at the beach the Lord decided to call my husband Dalton to come home to Him. There is so much fear and uncertainty coursing through myself. My parents came down early this morning to be with me as I begin the next journey. Never did I think at 22 would I be a wife and then a widow so quickly. Please pray for I and all families as we grief. Right now there is no details for a funeral, but we will know more in the next several days. Love you so much Dalton Cottrell," she ended.
Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary also shared how "devastated" they are by the news. In its statement the college said the late Cottrell and his wife had both just completed their junior year at the school.
"The Faith community was devastated by the news of the passing of one of our students, Dalton Cottrell, Tuesday evening, July 30, 2019. Dalton was on his honeymoon in Florida with his bride and fellow Faith student, Cheyenne (Pernice-Hedrick), when he passed away in a drowning accident," the school said. "Dalton and Cheyenne were just married this past Saturday, July 27, at Eagle Heights Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri."
Jim Tillotson, the college's president, further noted: "Having just lost my mom a few weeks ago due to an accident, it was not advice that I needed but love, prayers, and support. I would like to encourage Eagle Nation to pray for, love, and support both Cheyenne and Dalton's family. Let's go heavy on love and light on advice. It is moments like this that Eagle Nation means the most. May we do all we can to support all of them through this difficult time."
A GoFundMe campaign started Wednesday to help cover Cottrell's funeral cost exceeded its $20,000 goal in 24 hours.
"On July 25, 2019 Dalton Cottrell turned 22 years old. He took his fiancée, Cheyenne, to his family home in Iowa to celebrate and prepare for the upcoming marriage. On July 27, 2019, we got to witness the beautiful celebration of what the Lord had done in their lives, both separately and together, at their marriage ceremony. Never were there two more beautiful, deserving people, and the future was bright," wrote the campaign's organizer, Robin Schneider, of Missouri.
Courtesy of The Christian Post