Reece Morris, 40, had gone into the sea with his eldest daughter despite the fact that lifeguards had raised the red flag on the beach, signalling that the water was not safe for bathing. His wife and their five-year-old daughter stayed on the beach.
The pair were caught in a rip tide and swept towards a rocky area at the western end of El Peñoncillo beach, in Torox on the Costa del Sol, when other beachgoers noticed they were in trouble and rushed to their rescue.
The girl was brought safely to shore and rescuers reported that her father seemed to be ok as he was standing in shallow water.
But when lifeguards arrived and finally pulled him to safety he collapsed and despite efforts to revive him by paramedic teams, he died on the beach.
Samuel Pazo saw the pair in trouble and was one of a group who rushed to their rescue.
"When I saw there was a girl in trouble I didn't hesitate to jump in," the 35-year-old office worker told Diario Sur.
"The rip tide was very strong and was pushing us onto the rocks,"he said adding that it took lifeguards too long to reach them. "If it wasn't for me and the other people who jumped in to help, the girl would also have died."
Witnesses complained that the red flag used to warn bathers not to enter the sea was not very visible from the area of the beach where the tragedy happened.
"It was about 300 meters away on a watchtower. Maybe because they were tourists they didn't know to look out for the flag and didn't see it so far away," one observer told the newspaper.
The local council is considering introducing fines to those who enter the sea when red-flags are flying and to improve information informing foreign tourists about the risks.
Twelve swimmers have already drowned on this same stretch of coast this year and each year more than 400 people drown in Spain.