Kendra Baldwin says her sister died as she lived when she jumped into dangerous waters at a Nova Scotia beach to save a group of swimmers, her children among them.

Forty-five-year-old Michelle Curtis of Sydney collapsed on the beach after she, Baldwin and others raced into the water at MacLeod’s Beach in Inverness County.

“She was absolutely a hero. She saved the kids. She saved her son. She saved her daughter,” Baldwin said. “I'm not at all surprised.  She's been my hero."

The sisters were part of a long-weekend camping trip with more than 40 family members and friends near Broad Cove, N.S., when tragedy struck on Sunday afternoon.

Baldwin says when the group first arrived at the beach that day, the kids and several adults rushed into the water to play in the waves.

However, conditions proved dangerous, and seven swimmers soon found themselves in trouble.

"By the time we had set up our chairs and sat down, the current had taken them out. It was like a riptide,” Baldwin said.

She says Curtis was the first to reach the kids and start bringing them to safety.

"As she was coming back in, I looked at her and said ‘Are you OK?' and she said 'No, I'm not OK.,'” Baldwin said.

“I swam with her and just told her to take deep breaths and that everything was going to be OK."

Paramedics and bystanders tried to revive Curtis after she collapsed onshore, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.

"I take comfort in the fact one of the doctors who worked on her knew her, he worked with her at the hospital. One of the nurses was a good friend,” Baldwin said.

On Tuesday, Curtis was being remembered as a beloved nurse with the palliative care unit at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital.

"She was so passionate about what she did. She loved her job. And I can't imagine, because her job has to be extremely difficult,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin says her sister had no known medical conditions. The cause of death has not yet been determined.

"I'm devastated. She was my best friend. She was my big sister."

A memorial service is being planned for Saturday.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ryan MacDonald