This is the incredible moment an eight-year-old Ohio boy on a unicorn-shaped float was rescued at sea after a gust of wind blew his raft nearly half a mile out to sea.
Declan O’Connor said he ‘thought he might die’ after footage showed a volunteer water rescue team save him as he floated away from the North Carolina coast on the large white and and pink raft.
The youngster, from Ohio, told Good Morning America: ‘I was really scared and thinking like I might die.’
His desperate mother’s call to the emergency services reveal the family’s terror as they watched the boy float away on the float.
Jill O’Connor can be heard telling dispatchers: ‘My son is floating out in the middle of the ocean on a floaty thing.
‘He doesn’t have a life jacket on. He doesn’t, he doesn’t really know how to swim.’
She adds: ‘My brother is going out to swim to him. He is almost to him. Oh, my gosh.
‘My brother is not even half way out to get him. He is getting so far out so quickly. We need someone out there quickly.’
Declan was at the beach on Oak Island on Monday when a gust of wind blew the raft nearly half a mile out to sea.
It is understood his uncle attempted to swim out and save the boy before the volunteer team took over.
The youngster’s dad, Don, added: ‘As soon as we saw him moving away we went after him. We weren’t making ground, we were moving away faster, but his mom called 911 right away.’
Volunteers with Oak Island Water Rescue say the unicorn float acted as a sail, which caused it to move too fast for the boy to stop.
Rescue crews say family members called 911 and the team used a raft to reach the boy and bring him back to shore.
Images following the rescue show Jill running to her son before pulling him in for a hug. She said there ‘were a lot of tears, exhalation, being grateful and thankful for those rescuers’.
The moment she was able to have her son back in her arms ‘was the best feeling I could ever imagine’, she added.
The Oak Island Water Rescue team posted footage of the incident online to share safety tips when in open water.
They wrote: ‘Witnesses said it happened in just a few seconds. Sometimes things happen so quickly that being even a few feet away isn’t close enough to prevent an emergency. Just a few seconds is all it takes.
‘The young man did an amazing job of staying calm and remaining on the float. When Boat 4491 reached him, he told the crew not to pop the unicorn float or they would get in trouble.
‘Certain things such as a life jacket, close adult supervision, and water survival skills help reduce the danger of water in general.’
WWAY-TV reports other floats blew out to sea several times last year, but this was the first time a child was still on board.