Why Kids Shouldn't Ride Floatie Animals in the Ocean Without Adult Supervision

A swim safety expert said the floaties are safer when used in the pool.

An 8-year-old boy was swept out to see on a giant unicorn float in North Carolina, and the incident is serving as a reminder to parents about the dangers of inflatable animals in the ocean. 

After a relaxing day at the beach turned into a nightmare, Declan O'Connor's mother frantically called 911 during the scary incident last week.

“My son is floating out in the middle of the ocean on a floaty thing!” mom Jill told the dispatcher. “He doesn't have a life jacket on! He doesn't, he doesn't really know how to swim!”

The 8-year-old was playing in the surf when his unicorn float drifted out into the Atlantic. In a matter of seconds, the boy was almost a half-mile from shore. 

Inside Edition spoke to swim safety expert Jim Spiers, who said the unique floaties "are not really made for the ocean."

"On a windy day ... they can blow out past the breaks and they can just keep going out and the child might not be able to get back to shore," he said. 

On the particular unicorn float, he said that the head of the enchanted animal could act as a mast, carrying the floatie and its passenger farther and farther out.

The boy's uncle tried to reach him but was not successful. Before responders could get to the scene, volunteer water rescuers reached the boy in a raft and Declan was reunited with his mother. 

The family, who was vacationing from Ohio, spoke to “Good Morning America” Tuesday. 

“It was a lot of tears, exhalation, being grateful and thankful for those rescuers," she said. 

The little boy said he was scared. 

"I was really scared and thinking like I might die and all that stuff," he said. 

Declan said he will never go into the ocean again with a float. 

"Now I know never go out on a float ever again in the ocean," he said.

There are essential precautions swimmers need to know to stay safe when on a floatie. Spiers said that animal floats are safe when used in the pool. But if swimmers use them at the beach, an adult should always be supervising.

Spiers also said that people should always wear life jackets and tether the floatie to the shore or have a parent hold onto it with a rope.