A body was found Wednesday in the area where a man disappeared after jumping into the water off Lakeshore Drive to aid in rescuing two other people Tuesday night.
One of those two men died and another was hospitalized after their car plunged into a canal at West End, and it appeared that the restaurant worker who jumped into the water to try to save them was killed as well.
Officials have not identified any of the men involved. But family and co-workers at the Blue Crab Restaurant & Oyster Bar identified the man who jumped in after the vehicle as 50-year-old Frank Williams, a husband, father and grandfather of three.
Authorities spent much of Wednesday searching for any sign of Williams. A body matching his description was found about 4:25 p.m., New Orleans Police Department spokeswoman Ambria Washington said. But officials wouldn't be able to confirm his identity until after an autopsy, Washington said.
Relatives and co-workers of a Blue Crab restaurant staff member who went missing Thursday night after jumping in water near New Orleans' lakefront to rescue people in a car that fell in and became submerged gathered inside the restaurant and watched as a U.S. Coast Guard searched for a sign of the missing employee.
Relatives and co-workers huddled inside and outside the restaurant watching over the search for the missing man.
Williams' son, Frankie Clark, told WWL-TV that he wasn't surprised about his father's decision to jump in the water and try to help out in the emergency.
During a telephone interview, a co-worker of Williams' echoed Clark, saying Williams' actions Tuesday night were in line with his character.
"I know it sounds cliched, but it's 100 percent true. Frank was the true definition of a selfless person who always looked out for his fellow man, co-worker or friend — the type of guy who would give you the shirt off his back," Daniel Trentacosta said. "His large stature perfectly matched his large heart."
A statement from Blue Crab called Williams "everything you could ask for in a human being."
"He was funny, kind and generous," the restaurant's statement said. "He acted with that generosity last night and saved someone's life.
"This organization has suffered an enormous loss. But our loss pales in comparison to the loss his family is experiencing right now. Our thoughts and prayers are with them."
New Orleans police said two men who had been in the Blue Crab got into a car about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday to leave a parking lot next to the restaurant. For reasons that remained unclear, the driver put the car in drive and accelerated, plunging it into the water of the adjacent canal, police said.
People in the area, including Williams and other Blue Crab workers, worked together to pull out the two men in the submerged car.
One of the two rescued men made it to a hospital, where he was listed in stable condition, police said. The other, a 25-year-old man, was dead when he arrived at the hospital, police said.
WWL-TV reported that the two men who were in the submerged car had caused a disturbance in the Blue Crab and were asked to leave.
Police on Wednesday didn't comment on that report or whether they suspected the car was accidentally driven into the water from the parking lot.
New Orleans police divers and a U.S. Coast Guard boat crew searched for Williams at various points Wednesday, though their efforts were complicated by the day's cold, dreary weather. A diver hired privately by Blue Crab owner Nick Asprodites also joined the search.
By Wednesday morning, Williams' disappearance had caused a strong reaction on social media, with people hailing him as a selfless hero.
"My Person of the Year is Frank Williams," said one user on Facebook, in an apparent reference to the Person of the Year award Time Magazine handed out Wednesday. "(One) man from the car ... looks to make a full recovery."
In a reply to that post, another Facebook user wrote about Williams: "I for some reason put myself in that scenario and ask myself what would you do. That guy is a hero. Really what life is about. Putting others before yourself. Amazing."
WWL-TV's Kristin Pierce contributed to this report.