This New Zealand fisherman could have easily overlooked what he believed to be a doll floating in the ocean, but instead he reached for it anyway and ended up rescuing a toddler that had wandered into the water.
Malachai Reeve, an 18-month-old boy, was camping with his family nearby at Matata Beach on the North Island last month when his parents fell asleep in their tent and didn’t notice him wander off.
The toddler floated about 50 feet into the ocean before local fisherman, Gus Hutt, grabbed his arm and pulled him out of the water.
“His face just looked like porcelain with his short hair wetted down,” Hutt told the Whakatane Beacon. “But then he let out a little squeak and I thought, ‘Oh God, this is a baby and it’s alive.’”
Hutt explained he had been checking his fishing lines that morning around 7:00 a.m. when he saw what he originally thought was a doll floating past.
“I reached out and grabbed him by the arm, even then I still thought it was just a doll,” Hutt said. “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.”
Hutt said it must have been fate that he put his fishing poles in that spot that day, since his usual spot was farther down the beach.
Malachai’s mom, Jessica Whyte, said she awoke to the campground officials letting her know that her baby had wandered off.
“She ran to the tent and just shook it and said, ‘Where’s your baby? We just pulled one from the sea,’ and the mother just screamed,” Hutt said.
Whyte told local news organization Stuff that she thought it was a sick joke, but her heart sank when she saw Malachai cold and purple at the campground reception area.
“It was horrible in between hearing that and seeing him. I don’t think my heart … between hearing that to seeing him, I don’t think my heart worked,” Whyte said. “It was scary but he was breathing, he was alive.”
Whyte explained that her son normally sleeps through the morning, but must have woken up because of the sound of the waves.
They later discovered Malachai’s path to the sea by following a trail of tiny footprints in the same.
Whyte kept her baby awake until emergency officials arrived, and was happy to report that Malachai came out of the incident unscathed.
“He’s himself,” Whyte said. “Maybe he’ll be more aware of water, not run into beaches. But he’s definitely himself.”