OAK HILL, Fla. – A flight paramedic jumped from a helicopter into the Mosquito Lagoon to rescue four kayakers -- two women and two children -- who were lost, Volusia County sheriff's officials said.
Matt Brunelle has 13 years of experience under his belt, but said Sunday's rescue was his first time jumping out of the aircraft and into water.
"Ultimately, we had no other choice. We didn't want to leave, especially with two small children. We didn't want to leave them out here all night waiting for the tide to come back up. Plus there was some bad weather coming in as well," Brunelle said.
The rescue happened Sunday night near Canaveral National Seashore.
According to the Volusia County Sheriff's Office, deputies and Air One assisted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission with the missing kayakers.
"We're in Canaveral National Seashore -- me, my two kids and my fiance -- and were in kayaks in the water, and we don't know where we're at," a woman told 911. "We can't get out of here. We're stuck. We've been going up and down these canals, and we have no idea where we're at."
The foursome was found by the Air One crew in the middle of the lagoon, west of Canaveral National Seashore. Due to low tide, however, the FWC boat could not reach the kayakers.
"My pilot Greg brought the aircraft down to about ten feet from the water, which I applaud him. He did an excellent job on how he was able to get me down there close to the water. I hopped down to the skid into the water," Brunelle said.
Brunelle jumped into the lagoon -- about a 10-foot leap into the water -- to help them. Brunelle pulled the kayakers about a quarter of a mile to the FWC’s boat.
The children were put on the boat, which also towed the kayaks, one holding the women and the other containing Brunelle, to JB's Fish Camp.
"The little boy, he was in good spirits. The grandmother and her friend, you could tell they were a little agitated being out there all day. The little girl -- she was kind of in a pouty-face mood, but all in all, they were grateful once we got them back to shore," Brunelle said.
He said it was a rescue that will be among the top and described it as both scary and exciting.
"Jumping out of the chopper and jumping through water -- through shallow, dark water -- at night. Not knowing, sharks. Obviously, alligators. I mean, you don't know what's down there. I actually did step on a sting ray. Thankfully, it was on the wing of it. I was wearing boots as well," Brunelle said.
Brunelle was not injured by the sting ray. All four victims were unharmed.
"All ended well, except for Brunelle capsizing the kayak during his attempt to get in. (He) still gets a 10/10 for effort. Great job!" the Sheriff's Office said on Facebook.