JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville family is grateful to be alive this Memorial Day weekend, and the dad says it’s all because of his 7-year-old son.
The brave youngster outswam a current that separated him from his father and 4-year-old sister in the St. Johns River near Mandarin Point on Friday, according to News 6 partner WJXT.
Steven Poust said he anchored his boat in the water while he fished and his kids swam around. Chase, 7, said while they were in the water, his sister, Abigail, let go of the boat because of a strong current, so he let go and they were both stuck.
“I felt really scared,” Chase said.
Chase didn’t have a life jacket on, but his sister did. She floated along with the current as their father jumped in the water trying to grab her while Chase tried to swim to shore.
“I told them I loved him because I wasn’t sure what’s going to happen,” Poust said. “I tried to stick with both of them. I wore myself out. She drifted away from me.”
But Chase kept swimming to shore. He said he would doggie paddle, then float on his back to make sure he wouldn’t tire himself out.
“The current was going the opposite way of going to the boat and the shore so it was very hard to swim that way,” Chase said.
He made it to shore after an hour while his dad and sister were stuck in the water for an hour longer before being rescued by Jacksonville firefighters — more than a mile away from the boat.
Chase said once he reached shore, he ran to the nearest home to knock for help.
The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, Sheriff’s Office and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission helped rescue this family.
“I screamed for help at the top of my lungs and waved my arms and sure enough someone heard us,” Poust said. “Little man also made it to shore and got help and that’s what saved our lives.”
Eric Prosswimmer with JFRD noted that neither the 7-year-old nor the father were required to wear a life vest. He said the law applies to children age 6 and under for a vessel that’s under 26 feet.