An 18-month-old New Zealand boy who got swept up into the ocean when he crept out of his tent while his parents were sleeping is getting another chance at life, thanks to what the owner of the camp is describing as a "freakish miracle."
Rebecca Salter, co-owner of Murphy's Holiday Camp on Matata Beach on North Island said it was the young boy and his parents' first time at the camp last week and little Malachi was very excited to be on the beach.
Perhaps a little too excited, as things turned out.
"It came as a shock to everyone," said Salter. "It was a very, very lucky result ... it could have been a very tragic incident."
If it weren't for Gus Hutt, another camper also staying on the island, it certainly would have been. Hutt was fishing when he spotted something floating in the water. At first, he thought it was a doll, only to realize moments later that it was a child after the boy let out a little squeak.
"I thought he was a doll," he said. "[Even as] I reached out and grabbed him by the arm, I still thought it was a doll ... but then he let out a little squeak and I thought, 'oh God, this is a baby and it's alive'."
When Hutt returned to shore with the boy, his wife Sue called emergency services and alerted the camp's staff. She was told that there was only one couple on the island staying with a baby. She immediately ran to their tent to tell them their baby was safe.
Jessica Whyte, the boy's mother, said she screamed when she found out that her son was found in the water.
"I don't think my heart [beat] from hearing that to seeing him," she said. "I don't think my heart worked."
The couple thanked the Hutts, and said that hearing the news at 7:30 a.m. felt like some sort of 'sick joke'.
"It was horrible hearing that and seeing him," Whyte said.
Hutt can only describe finding the child as luck, given that usually, he heads straight out from the camp to fish from the beach. But on this day, he chose to walk 100 metres to the left.
"He was bloody lucky," he said. "But he just wasn't meant to go; it wasn't his time."
Whakatane Police confirmed that the child was treated at the scene, and released.