DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Crews are working to put panels back into place at a retention area at Halifax Harbor Marina, after a representative with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced they believe two trapped manatees were able to get out safely.
Over the course much of the day, crews worked to lift up two panels at the retention area to allow a mother manatee and her calf to escape after being trapped inside for days.
Nadia Gordon is a marine biologist with the commission and believes that while no one officially saw the two manatees escape once the panels were lifted, nobody was able to see a manatee go up for air for 30 minutes, which is longer than they can hold their breath.
"It's likely once she found that opening, her and calf took off and we're really happy to see that," she said.
For many, it was a relief to learn the manatees likely escaped.
"I'm just wishing them a safe journey, stay away from the boats and I'm just so glad the episode is over," Celine Sullivan said.
The two are believed to have swum in during or right after Hurricane Dorian and FWC experts told News 6 mom and calf were doing well inside, but wouldn't be able to survive in the retention area.
Support for the two manatees continued to grow over the last week.
Debora King noticed the manatees trapped shortly after Hurricane Dorian.
"It's exciting, because she is going to be free," King said. "She's really been trying hard to get out of here."
"They know that they're not alone, and that's real important," said Crystal Hamilton, who lives near where the manatees got trapped.
The next step is for construction crews to lower those two panels back into the water, but they don't plan to bolt them into place until Thursday morning, just in case a manatee resurfaces overnight.