New Zealand fisherman rescues toddler from the ocean

New Zealand fisherman rescues toddler from the ocean
File photo of a beach in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand

A toddler has had a lucky escape in New Zealand after he was pulled from the sea alive by a fisherman who happened to see him float by.

Unknown to his sleeping parents, the 18-month-old baby had pulled up the zipper of their tent at a campsite last month, before crawling under the flap and heading to the beach.

A fisherman, Gus Hutt, happened to check his lines at about 7.15am at the beach near a holiday park in the Bay of Plenty region of the North Island when he spotted the baby, named Malachi, float past.

At first, he thought he saw a doll in the ocean, but when he was pulling it ashore he realised he had rescued a baby when the boy "let out a little squeak".

Mr Hutt told the 'Whakatāne Beacon': "His face looked like porcelain with his short hair wetted down.

"But then he let out a little squeak and I thought, 'oh God, this is a baby and it's alive'. He was floating at a steady pace with a rip in the water.

"If I hadn't been there, or if I had just been a minute later I wouldn't have seen him."

Mr Hutt's wife Sue ran to the holiday park manager, who directed her to the only visitors with a baby.

Mr Hutt said: "She ran to the tent and just shook it and asked, 'where's your baby? We just pulled one from the sea', and the mother just screamed."

Malachi's mother, Jessica Whyte, ran to collect her baby at the park’s reception where he appeared purple, cold and smaller than usual.

She said: “It was scary but he was breathing, he was alive.”

Ms Whyte said he normally woke at 8am but might have risen early due to the sound of the waves. She also explained that they had stopped Malachi from running into the sea the day before.

Mr Hutt said he later followed the boy's "little footprints" to the beach and saw that he had entered the water not far from where he was fishing.

He said: "It was about [50 feet] away from where I had my rod, so he wasn't in the water long. I must've just missed seeing him go in … He was bloody lucky, but he just wasn't meant to go; it wasn't his time."

Emergency services treated the boy who seemed to be perfectly happy with his parents after getting out of hospital.

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