‘He taught us how to fight’: Family of man who died at Kalahari speaks out

The family of a man who died after falling from a balcony at Kalahari in Sandusky is speaking out about the tragedy.

The VanCleaves from Virginia were on the final day of a long-awaited vacation when the accident happened.

Derek VanCleave, 25, fell from a third-floor balcony at the waterpark-themed resort on Tuesday.

Jim and Leslie VanCleave say Derek suffered a traumatic brain injury years ago when he was hit by a truck and needed constant attention. They say they took their eyes off him for a split second when their nightmare happened.

"And then I screamed because I looked over the edge of the balcony and that's something you don't want anybody to have to go through because I saw him," Leslie said.

The family believes Derek fell by accident. Even in their grief, the VanCleaves are glad Derek could have so much joy in his final days.  "He gets out of the wheelchair and we help him walk up those stairs, all up to the ceiling, jumps in the raft; he's happy as can be," they said.

"He taught us every day how to live life to its fullest and how to be happy. He taught us how to fight," Jim said.

On Tuesday, Kalahari released the following statement:

"We are deeply saddened by this morning’s events. We are fully cooperating with the local authorities for anything they may need. As this incident resulted from a personal and private matter in a guest room, we will not be commenting further. Our thoughts and prayers are those affected."

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