8-Year-Old Boy Rescued After Inflatable Unicorn Raft Drifts Out to Sea


A family’s relaxing beach vacation suddenly turned into a dire situation when their 8-year-old son was swept out to sea on an inflatable unicorn raft.

The O’Connors traveled from Dayton, Ohio to North Carolina for their first trip to the ocean, when an unusual gust of wind dragged 8-year-old Declan from shallow water to deep water in a matter of seconds. And when it got out past the waves, the inflatable rainbow unicorn acted like a sail and the float took off away from the beach.

“My son is floating out in the middle of the ocean on a floaty thing,” Jill O’Connor said. “He doesn’t have a life jacket on. He doesn’t, he doesn’t really know how to swim.”

The inflatable unicorn raft continued to drift away from shore, while Don O’Connor did everything he could he catch up.

“We weren’t making ground, we were moving away faster, but his mom called 911 right away.”

First responders with the Oak Island Water Rescue team arrived on scene and had a boat in the water 15 minutes after receiving Jill’s desperate phone call. Soon after, the rescuers returned Declan to dry land and to his parents who, as you can imagine, were extremely relieved.

“It was a lot of tears, exhalation, being grateful and thankful for those rescuers,” the relieved mother stated.

The Oak Island Water Rescue team shared details of the rescue in a post on Facebook hoping to spread some beach safety awareness ahead of summer:

In the post, they explain how the wind typically blows inland towards the shore. But on the day of the incident, winds were blowing in a strange direction toward the ocean.

“That isn’t something we see here weekly and certainly not something a once a year beach vacationer would notice (or likely comprehend the hazards of)” the post reads.

“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.”

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