“As he floated past I thought he was just a doll,” Mr Hutt told the NZ Herald. “[Even as] I reached out and grabbed him by the arm, I still thought it was a doll.”
He said the child looked like porcelain and his short wet hair was stuck to his face.
“He let out a little squeak and I thought, ‘Oh God this is a baby and it’s alive’.”
Mr Hutt said had he checked his line a minute later he would not have seen him.
“He was bloody lucky, but he just wasn’t meant to go; it wasn’t his time,” he said.
Mr Hutt’s wife quickly alerted staff at the camp where he was staying and they set out to find his parents. Emergency services were also called to the scene.
He was taken to Whakatane hospital but was allowed home later that day.
According to Rebecca Salter, owner of Murphy’s Holiday Camp, the little boy had been so excited to be on the beach that he undid the tent zip and wandered into the ocean while his parents were asleep.
Ms Salter said: “It came as a shock to everyone. It was a very, very lucky result ... it could have been a very tragic incident. It’s a freakish miracle.”
Mr Hutt said the toddler was all smiles when the parents later stopped by to thank him for saving their son’s life.
“He was wriggling trying to get down to have a look at everything, he was just a lovely, cheeky little fella,” he said.
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