A fisherman in New Zealand pulled an 18-month-old baby from the sea alive after the boy went missing from his campsite where he was staying with his parents.
Gus Hutt, who was fishing at a beach near a holiday park in the Bay of Plenty region of the North Island, thought he was pulling a doll from the ocean before realizing he had rescued a baby when the boy “let out a little squeak”.
He said he was checking his lines at about 7:15 am late last month when he spotted the baby float past.
“His face looked like porcelain with his short hair wetted down,” Mr Hutt told the Whakatāne Beacon. “But then he let out a little squeak and I thought, ‘oh God, this is a baby and it’s alive’. He was floating at a steady pace with a rip in the water. If I hadn’t been there, or if I had just been a minute later I wouldn’t have seen him.”
Mr Hutt said his wife Sue ran to the holiday park manager, who directed her to the only visitors who had a baby.
“She ran to the tent and just shook it and asked, ‘where’s your baby – we just pulled one from the sea’ – and the mother just screamed,” Mr Hutt said.
The parents said the baby, named Malachi, had pulled up the zipper of their tent while they were sleeping and crawled under the flap before heading to the beach.
Jessica Whyte, Malachi’s mother, said the incident was “horrible” and she was terrified after being woken to be told that he had been pulled from the sea.
“I don’t think my heart [beat] from hearing that to seeing him. I don’t think my heart worked,” she told Stuff.
Ms Whyte said she met her baby at the park’s reception and he appeared purple, cold and smaller than usual.
“It was amazing seeing him. I gave him a big hug.”
She added: “He’s himself. Maybe he’ll be more aware of water, not run into beaches. But he’s definitely himself.”
Ms Whyte said Malachi usually woke at 8am but might have risen early due to the sound of the waves. She said he had tried to run into the sea on the previous day and been stopped by his parents.
Mr Hutt said he later followed the boy’s “little footprints” to the beach and saw where he had entered the water.
“It was about [50 feet] away from where I had my rod, so he wasn’t in the water long,” he said.
“I must’ve just missed seeing him go in … He was bloody lucky, but he just wasn’t meant to go; it wasn’t his time.”
Emergency services treated the boy and then took him to a nearby hospital.
Mr Hutt said the parents later thanked him and Malachi seemed perfectly happy.
“He was wriggling trying to get down to have a look at everything,” he said. “He was just a lovely, cheeky little fellow.”
Ms Whyte urged parents sleeping in tents to “zip your tents up”.
“We wouldn’t let him run into the water by his own,” she said.
“People can … think we’re a bad parent. I’m more concerned about people zipping up their tents.”