Holidaymakers have described the tragic scene as a Shropshire father and son drowned in stormy seas on the Costa Brava.
Symon Howlett, aged 32, and his five-year-old son Jay died after a wave hit as they took pictures at the beach.
The wave surged on to the Mar Menuda in Tossa de Mar at about 11am on Wednesday as Mr Howlett was photographing Jay and his seven-year-old brother Thomas.
Mr Howlett and his wife Deborah, from Market Drayton, could only watch in horror as both boys were swept into the sea.
But Mr Howlett, who worked for the bathroom design company SOS Howlett Brothers, leapt in.
He managed to save his eldest son and returned to the water for Jay, but both were overcome by the waves as the rest of their family looked on.
They were spotted clinging to a buoy by rescuers in a helicopter but died before anyone could reach them.
Mrs Howlett was seen watching helplessly nearby, clutching her other son.
An eyewitness, from Long Melford, Suffolk, aged in his 40s, said: "Two divers arrived and one of them tried to get in to rescue the bodies, however the swell was so big that as the diver went under the wave he disappeared and ended up 20 yards down the beach.
"The sea was fierce and you could not get a boat closer than about 50 yards from the scene.
"There were probably around 15 to 20 police and ambulance crews but it was around an hour before a helicopter and boat arrived.
"The mother was sitting at the bottom of the stairs which lead down to the beach. She looked drained and speechless and she was holding her other son, who had a towel around him. The beach had been cordoned off as well as the road.
"I don't think this is a kid-friendly beach. In the hotels there are lifebelts around the swimming pools but here on the beach there is nothing. I don't think it's a place for kids, it is treacherous.
"The dad was really heroic. If he had lived he would have deserved a medal."
Mr Howlett's father, Michael, from Tilstock, Shropshire, told The Times : "My son jumped in and got Thomas out but when he went back to get Jay the undercurrent was too strong and they were both dragged out to sea.
"The locals tried to get to them, as did the rescue people, but the sea was too rough. They could see them but couldn't reach them."
He added: "Symon was a wonderful son and a wonderful father. He would not have hesitated to risk his life to save the kids."
Mrs Howlett and Thomas were comforted by Consul officials at a hotel in Tossa de Mar after receiving medical treatment at the town's Social Security Health Centre (CAP).
A police spokesman in Tossa de Mar confirmed that Mrs Howlett witnessed the entire scene.
He said: "She subsequently had a panic attack and was taken to Tossa de Mar's medical centre along with her son, who was treated for hypothermia. Both were released later."
The headteacher of the school Jay Howlett attended paid tribute to the five-year-old.
Margaret Malcolm, head of Market Drayton Infants School, said: "We have not yet been in contact with the family, but have heard on the news of the death of both Jay and his father.
"Everyone here is deeply shocked by this and our thoughts and prayers are with Jay's family.
"We will all miss Jay. We have lost a happy, lively and bright boy."