The hospital in Memphis found Bennett contracted Vibrio vulnificus, a type of flesh-eating bacteria, which led to his death. Baptist Hospital in Memphis sent the results to the Shelby County, Tennessee, Health Department, which plans to transmit the results to the Okaloosa County Health Department, Wiygul said.

NICEVILLE — Every summer, David Bennett would take his family to North Carolina, where he loved spending time on the beaches and in the water.

“It was his favorite thing to do,” said Cheryl Wiygul, his only child. “He thought this beach was great, too.”

However, the 66-year-old Bennett died Sunday, July 7, from flesh eating bacteria after apparently contracting it on the Emerald Coast.

Bennett spent the day after the Fourth of July at Rocky Bayou, swimming and watching his daughter’s five children ride personal watercraft, Wiygul said. He had a weak immune system from battling chronic lymphocytic leukemia for 18 years. He also swam at Crab Island and in Boggy Bayou while in town from Memphis, Tennessee.

But Wiygul is convinced he contracted the deadly infection from Rocky Bayou, where the family spent the day on Friday, July 5. Early the next morning, Bennett had a fever, chills and complained his legs hurt, Wiygul said.

However, Bennett and his wife of more than 40 years, Judy, had a flight back to Memphis that Saturday morning. They decided to wait and see doctors there later that day.

Bennett developed a big black spot on his back, and despite having no heart problems suffered two heart attacks. He lapsed into a coma and died Sunday afternoon, a little more than a day after first feeling sick, Wiygul said.

“I told my mom to tell him I love him,” she said. “She said it was the only time he smiled since he got there. It wasn’t long after that he lost consciousness.”

The hospital in Memphis found Bennett contracted Vibrio vulnificus, a type of flesh-eating bacteria, which led to his death. Baptist Hospital in Memphis sent the results to the Shelby County, Tennessee, Health Department, which plans to transmit the results to the Okaloosa County Health Department, Wiygul said.

Wiygul said she cried for two days after learning of her father’s death while she and her family drove to Memphis.

“I should have never let him swim with a compromised immune system,” Wiygul said.

“I feel stupid now. I blame myself.”

Her 3-year-old daughter had a cut on her leg and her mom had cut on her chest from a cat scratch, but both were sealed with a liquid Band-Aid.

Cuts and weak immune systems can both lead to flesh-eating bacteria, also known as Necrotizing fasciitis. The serious bacterial infection that destroys tissue under the skin is rare, with fewer than 20,000 cases a year in the United States. Vibrio cases are even more rare, with about 100 cases annually.

Wiygul's 65-year-old mother, who works at a bank, planned to retire within a week of the tragedy.

“She’s mad at the situation,” Wiygul said. “She said, ‘Now I’m going to retire and I don’t have him anymore.’ ”

Wiygul said she would like signs posted at local beaches to warn swimmers with cuts or weak immune systems not enter the water.

“He was really healthy and had a great attitude,” Wiygul said. “Nothing could be said bad about him. He was a genuinely nice and good person.”

Wiygul was culling through old pictures of her dad, along with his brothers and sisters to put together a “happy memorial. Something he would get a kick out of.” The memorial in Bennett’s honor is scheduled for noon Saturday, July 20, at Renewal Church in Memphis, which her family runs.

Meanwhile, Wiygul said she wants people to continue to enjoy the beaches but to beware of flesh-eating bacteria.

“I’m not trying to detour tourism,” she said. “I will be getting back in the water. It will just be a little bit before I can do that.”