The four-year-old girl and her father had drifted nearly a mile away from the boat and were found after more than an hour of searching due to strong currents
Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 1, 2021. It has since been updated.
A brave seven-year-old boy managed to save the lives of his father and sister after a boating accident caused them to float adrift. The children's father, Steven Poust, had taken his children Chase and Abigail to St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida over Memorial Day weekend for a swim. Poust anchored his boat and was fishing while the kids splashed around in the water. There was a strong current in the water that caused the four-year-old Abigail to let go of the boat. Chase decided to let go of the boat as well to try and keep his little sister from drifting away.
A 7-year-old boy in Florida is being hailed a hero after he swam ashore to get help when his sister and dad got swept away by a current https://t.co/AP3qvkLFKW— CNN (@CNN) May 31, 2021
Poust said that his daughter usually hung out by the back of the boat but had to let go because of how strong the current was. Chase who had let go also got stuck. Seeing his kids in danger, Poust jumped into the water and went after them. He reached his children and managed to free Chase from the current. He asked his son to swim to the shore while he helped his sister, who was thankfully wearing a life jacket, reported CNN. Chase swam for nearly an hour to reach the shore. He floated on his back and doggie paddled so he wouldn't get worn out. When he made it to the land, he ran to the nearest house for help.
"I told them both I loved them because I wasn't sure what's going to happen," Proust said. "I tried to stick with her as long as I could," Steven recalled to WJXT. "I wore myself out, and she drifted away from me." Abigail floated with the current because of the life jacket. Proust and Chase were not wearing life jackets because it was not required by law. "I felt really scared," Chase said but was still quick on his feet. The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department (JFRD,) Sheriff’s Office and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission arrived to rescue Chase's father and sister.
The authorities arrived at the location to find an empty boat, fishing poles, and kids' shoes in the water. "I screamed for help at the top of my lungs and waved my arms and sure enough someone heard us," Poust told WKXT. “Little man also made it to shore and got help and that’s what saved our lives." According to Eric Prosswimmer, spokesperson for JFRD, the little girl and her father had drifted nearly a mile away from the boat. The search took them almost an hour and a half. “The current got ahold of them, moved the boat, and started separating them. Dad went after the 4-year-old, and it turns out that the 7-year-old ended up swimming to shore," Prosswimmer explained.
Amazing story. So nice to have a good outcome. What a smart boy - at time he floated on his back - what a good idea.— Power (@PowerNan39) May 31, 2021
They were found and rescued. The children were transported to a nearby hospital as a precautionary measure. All three of them are doing well. Chase is being hailed as a hero and rightfully so. "We're here. By the grace of God, we're here," Proust said acknowledging how fortunate they were to have made it out of the situation in one piece. When Chase was asked about how he became such a skilled swimmer, the brave little boy said, "I have no idea."
Prosswimmer noted that the rescue could have gone awry if it wasn't for the collective efforts of all his colleagues. "We had every resource we could have possibly had coming quickly and we're happy to say all three have been recovered, and all three are doing well," he said. "We couldn't ask for a better outcome." He reminded anyone on the water to be safe and smart. The law about wearing a safety vest is applicable only to children aged six and under for a vessel that’s under 26 feet, which was why neither Proust nor Chase had a vest on.