Staffordshire University student Hamza Mansoor lost his fight for life on Tuesday after being pulled into the sea off Crosby Beach, in Merseyside, by a freak wave.
The 22-year-old, from Chamberlain Street, in Shelton, was with five friends when tragedy struck.
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Now his family have thanked the public who dragged the friends out of the sea and then carried out CPR on the beach.
A family spokesman told the ECHO: “The family would like to thank all the heroes at Crosby Beach who tried their best to save Hamza and his friends. Due to their actions, many families have been spared the heartache we are going through.”
They added: “Hamza’s tragic death is a huge loss for our family, his friends and the community of Stoke-on-Trent.
“Hamza was an amazing young man who was always smiling. He had a warm and bubbly personality for which he will be fondly remembered.
“The void he has left in the hearts of his loved-ones will never be filled.”
The five friends – who were all from Stoke-on-Trent – had visited Crosby a day before their families were due to celebrate Eid-al-Adha.
Floral tributes have been left at the scene of the accident.
Family friend Mohammad Naseer Raja said: “Hamza died and one of his friends is still very ill in hospital.”