CRYSTAL BEACH — A 12-year-old boy who floated more than 300 yards away from the Bolivar Peninsula shoreline when his inner tube began drifting out to sea was rescued by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew on Tuesday.
The boy was swimming with his family near Crystal Beach when the inner tube went adrift and began floating out to sea at about 2 p.m., Petty Officer 1st Class Andrew Kendrick said.
The boy was on the inner tube with two other children when it first began floating away, Kendrick said. The boy’s uncle was able to escort the other two children to safety, but the 12-year-old was pulled out into deeper water, Kendrick said.
The Galveston County Sheriff’s Office alerted the Coast Guard, and a boat crew was launched from Galveston.
A helicopter crew that was already in the area found the boy floating between 300 to 400 yards offshore about 10 minutes later.
A flight mechanic on her first day of duty helped lower a rescue swimmer to the water, Kendrick said. The boy was hoisted onto the helicopter and brought back to dry land at Scholes International Airport.
“He was pretty shocked,” Kendrick said.
The boy was not wearing a lifejacket, and it’s fortunate the inner tube did not flip over or otherwise endanger the boy before the nearby helicopter crew arrived, Kendrick said.
Kendrick urged swimmers to enter the water near lifeguards or wear lifejackets when wading out into the sea.
Lt. Michael Gibson, a pilot aboard the helicopter, said in a Coast Guard news release that the boy’s decision to stick with the inner tube and wait for rescue may have saved his life.
“Unfortunately, some bad decisions left him stranded, but he contributed to his own rescue by making the wise decision to stay with his raft instead of trying to swim back to shore,” Gibson said. “This gave us a big target to spot and made it much easier to effect a rescue.”
A boat crew from the Coast Guard’s Galveston station later recovered the boy’s inner tube.
It was unclear Tuesday evening whether the inner tube would be returned to the boy.
Contact reporter Alex Macon at 409-683-5241 or firstname.lastname@example.org.