Grandfather Pat Smith (65), from Clondalkin in Dublin, died on a beach on the coast near the town of Santa Maria Colotopec in Oaxaca in south-western Mexico on Tuesday after collapsing after rescuing the boys who he spotted in trouble in the water.
Mr Smith was a well-known lead singer on the thriving music scene in 1970s and 1980s Dublin heading up a number of bands including The Soul Survivors who supported The Police at Leixlip Castle in 1980.
He had previously headed up a band known as The Gamblers who played their final gig in the Project Arts Centre in May 1978 where they were supported by a then up-and-coming young band called U2 who first met their future manager Paul McGuinness at the gig.
One of Mr Smith’s former bandmates Tony Gavin described him as “a real family man” and said his death has left his family and friends devastated particularly so close to Christmas.
He said Mr Smith “Lived the legend and died a hero.”
Witnesses said that Mr Smith had spotted two boys struggling in the sea due to fast currents and he swam out to rescue them.
Lifeguards responded to reports of three people drowning in the area around 6.30pm last Tuesday.
Mr Smith had managed to help get the boys to shore but when lifeguards arrived, they found him lying on the sand with no vital signs.
Mexican media said witnesses reported they lost sight of him in the water but a short time later they found his body on the shore.
Mr Gavin said he had heard that Mr Smith may have suffered heart attack after rescuing the boys.
The regional deputy prosecutor of the coast has opened an investigation into the incident.
Mr Smith was from Clondalkin but met his Mexican wife Alexandra in Dublin at a gig in the 1970s while she was studying English here and they moved to Mexico in the 1980s where they got married and started a family. He lived in residential development in Puerto Escondido around 30km from the beach where the tragedy occurred.
Mr Gavin said he went to school with Mr Smith in Clondalkin in the 1970s before playing in bands with him.
“He was a really good footballer when he was younger and played for Clondalkin Celtic. As we got older and the punk era came around a lot of bands were starting up at the time. He started up a band with two brothers Philip and Sean Fay called The Gamblers.
“They had various line-up changes. I occasionally played with them onstage.”
The band were well-known on the Dublin music scene, which was thriving at the time,
“They played all the Dublin venues at the time. Their final gig was in the Project Arts Theatre. The support act was U2. I was there backstage when U2 arrived. They were young but had this incredible equipment.
“As far as we were concerned at the time, they were just wannabes. Rumours have it that Paul McGuinness was at the gig to see The Gamblers and signed U2.”
After the Gamblers split, Mr Smith went on to head up a band known as The Subterraneans, not to be confused with another 1980s Dublin band by the same name, along with Mr Gavin.
“The band took off playing over Dublin in places like McGonagle’s. They went off and did a 30 date tour of Holland and had great fun altogether. As happened with a lot of bands at the time they split up. There was always a rotation of bands and band members at the time.”
After that band split Mr Smith headed up the Soul Survivors.
“They released a single Done Staying Around and would have been championed by the likes of Larry Gogan. They played support to The Police when they played Leixlip at the time.”
They also toured abroad in Holland with a successful string of dates before breaking up in the early 1980s.
“After a period of time they moved to Mexico and he got married and had two daughters and grandchildren.
“The last time I saw him was the 1990s but we kept in touch by Facebook and things like that. He played in the odd band in Mexico. He had a life there and worked with Alex’s family business."
Mr Gavin said he first got word this week Mr Smith died then found out he died saving lives.
“I heard that he died saving somebody. I heard got them back on shore and he suffered a heart attack.
“I always thought we’d meet again and have one more last blast with the band but it’s not to be.
“It’s so sad particularly at this time of year. He was a real family man who loved his family.”