Georgia child rescued after drifting away on boat

Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 7:26 PM EDT
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CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - A 4-year-old boy is home safe after he drifted away alone in a boat during a family outing Wednesday near Wassaw Island.

Emergency officials say the boat drifted more than 200 yards away and when they responded to the scene and found the boat, the child wasn’t in it.

It all started when the child’s family was packing the boat up after exploring a small island on the west side of New Cut near Wassaw Island. Officials say the family put the child in the boat with his life jacket on during this time and that’s when the boat broke away.

“These things don’t always end up this way. I mean, it is a great lesson that children should always wear their lifejackets,” Chatham County Marine Patrol Sgt. Daniel Walker said.

Sgt. Walker was one of the many responding officers on scene. Walker says they got the call around 4:00 p.m. When they got there and found the boat, they noticed it was running and was in reverse. But the boy was nowhere to be found.

“We continued searching. Searching the river, searching the sounds with helicopters. Chatham County Marine Patrol helicopter and U.S. Coast Guard helicopters,” he said.

Sgt. Walker says the Chatham County helicopter found the boy more than 30 yards inside the marsh line about 30 minutes into the search. He was found crouched down in the fetal position.

“Had it not been for the helicopter, we’d have never found him, I don’t think,” Sgt. Walker said.

He said the pilot wasn’t able to see his life jacket because it was a dark color and it blended in with the high marsh, but they were able to spot him because they saw his legs. Walker says he feels lucky that they have the training they have.

“We actually do scenarios where we have dummies in the water and we try to find them, so that training helped us yesterday in locating this 4-year-old boy,” he said.

Walker says the life jacket saved the boy’s life. He reminds people to always wear life jackets and for kids, especially, to wear one that’s a bright color.

“If it’s laying on the ground it’s not a life jacket. It has to be worn, it has to be properly fitted, it has to be clipped and properly worn,” Sgt. Walker said.

He said the boy wasn’t hurt when they found him and is doing just fine. He says it’s still unclear how the boat was able to drift away like it did. He’s not sure if it came untied or wasn’t tied in the first place.

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