Photo shows father's last moments before sacrificing his life for his son

The final photo of an Illinois father who lost his life while trying to save his 6-year-old son from drowning went viral for its heartbreaking, emotional message.

Malik Williams was pictured sitting on a green bucket as he fishes in the Mississippi River with his family-- one of his favorite things to do.

Riley Gomez, a 16-year-old passerby, was touched by the picturesque moment and snapped a photo, completely unaware of the tragedy that would soon strike and the deeper meaning the image would soon take on, Inside Edition reports.

Photo: Inside Edition

"I was on the dock taking pictures of the sunset and I saw them," she said of Williams and his son.

The family-filled day turned into a nightmare when Williams' young son fell into the water.

"When I was going home, I turned around to see the sunset one last time and the little boy wasn't on the dock anymore," Gomez told Inside Edition. "Then I saw his father jump in."

Williams, 25, did not know how to swim, but that didn't stop him from trying to save his child.

"Malik's first instinct was to save his baby, so he jumped in not knowing how to swim trying to do everything he could to save Jaden," a GoFundMe page created to help the family said.

His fiancée and the mother of his children began screaming for help after he jumped into the water.

"She was yelling, 'Help me, help me! They can't swim! They can't swim!'" Gomez recalled.

She and another passerby jumped into the water. The stranger, Von Thang, was able to save the child -- but Williams drifted too far out of reach.

"I tried everything... I keep having dreams that I actually did save him," Gomez told Inside Edition. "It still seems unreal to me."

Emergency responders search the river for Williams, but they were unable to find his body.

"I'm angry, heartbroken and in a state of confusion," one friend wrote on Facebook. "It's not fair! We prayed, we begged, we wanted this all to be an awful dream [and] have Malik walk through their front door with that huge smile on his face."

Williams leaves behind his 6-year-old son, a 2-week-old son and his high school sweetheart.

His family considers Gomez's final photo of Williams to be a gift.

"He seemed like an amazing father — he knew he couldn't swim and he sacrificed his life to save his child. He'll always be remembered as a hero," Gomez said. "Knowing that there was one last thing I was able to give to that family, I'm really glad I did take that picture."

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