Boy, 8, Swept Out to Sea on Unicorn Float in North Carolina: I Thought 'I Might Die'
Declan O'Connor's mother told 911 dispatchers "he doesn't really know how to swim"
An 8-year-old boy was visibly shaken after he was swept out to sea on a unicorn float in North Carolina, reports say.
Declan O’Connor, of Ohio, was at Oak Island beach with his family on June 3. The boy got on top of a large unicorn pool toy to enjoy the water, but then a wave swept him out to sea, ABC News reported. As he drifted further out into the water, his panicked mother called for help.
“My son is floating out in the middle of the ocean on a floaty thing,” Declan’s mother, Jill O’Connor, told dispatchers in a 911 call. “He doesn’t have a life jacket on. He doesn’t, he doesn’t really know how to swim.”
Family members went after the boy, but weren’t able to catch up to the fast-moving unicorn, father Don O’Connor told ABC. Meanwhile, Declan was terrified as he drifted further and further away from his family.
“I was really scared and thinking, like, I might die and all that stuff,” he told ABC.
Oak Island Water Rescue volunteers quickly jumped into the water and rescued the boy, Oak Island Water Rescue Chief Tony Young told WWAY.
“Handing that little kid back to his mom after we brought him in from way out in the ocean on that float was payment enough for all of us,” Young said. “I’m sure I speak for the whole team when it comes to that.”
Young told WWAY that they often have to retrieve large floating devices from the water, but this is the first time they found one with a child attached.
“A strong wind gust can send a raft on the move. In fact, on days where we have a strong wind blowing toward the ocean, it is not uncommon for us to get multiple 911 dispatches for rafts blown into deeper water,” officials wrote in a Facebook post after the incident last week.
They added in a follow-up post on Tuesday: “Keep those large animal rafts at home and off the beach.”
Jill told ABC that “it was a lot of tears, exhalation” when rescuers reached her son, and she was overwhelmed when she was finally able to hold Declan in her arms.
“That was the best feeling I could ever imagine,” she said.
As for Declan, the boy told ABC he’s learned a valuable lesson.
“Now I know never go out on a float ever again in the ocean,” he said.