A father and his two kids set out for some time on the water last Friday in what should have been a nice beginning to the long weekend. The family from Jacksonville, Florida, headed to St. Johns River for some fishing and swimming — but they all ended up swimming far more than they had intended.
Chase Poust fished from an anchored boat as his son Chase, 7, and daughter Abigail, 4, took a dip in the water while holding on to the back of the boat.
According to what the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department told WJXT-TV, the law requires children under 6 years of age to wear a life vest, but older children and adults do not have to.
As such, Abigail was wearing a life vest, a fact that no doubt saved her life that day.
The trio was near Mandarin Point when they encountered a strong current. Abigail lost her grip on the boat and was swept away, and Chase let go as well to go after her.
“The current was so strong that my sister — she usually hangs out at the back of the boat — and she let go,” Chase said. “So, I let go of the boat and I grabbed her, and then I was stuck.”
Whether because he panicked, because he wasn’t aware of the current and thought it would be easy to retrieve his children or for some other reason, Poust jumped out of the boat and went after them instead of using the boat to pick them up.
He quickly realized he wasn’t going to be able to save them. All three were swept out, but not together, and Poust was terrified he might lose them.
“I told them both I loved them because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” he said. “And I tried to stick with her as long as I could … and both of them, really. I wore myself out. And she drifted away from me.”
He told Chase to swim for shore, so that’s what Chase did.
“I felt really scared,” Chase later explained.
“The current was going the opposite way of going to the boat and the shore so it was very hard to swim that way.”
He said that he got tired, but he switched between dog paddling and back floating so he could catch his breath. It took him a good hour, but the 7-year-old made it.
Once he was on solid ground, he ran to the nearest house and told the owner what had happened. Soon the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department and sheriff’s office responded.
“I screamed for help at the top of my lungs and waved my arms and sure enough someone heard us,” Poust said.
Florida Fish and Wildlife were able to reach Poust and Abigail, and soon the family was back together again.
Many have been impressed with Chase’s swimming skills. When asked where he learned to swim so well and deal with emergencies, he simply and honestly said, “I have no idea.”
Poust is singing his son’s praises, saying that his ability to get to shore and alert the authorities is why they all survived.
“We’re here,” he said, according to People. “By the grace of God, we’re here. Little man … made it to shore and got help, and that’s what saved our lives.”
While many have criticized Poust’s response, it’s certainly easier to judge when you’re not in the same circumstances. It’s a mercy no one died, and hopefully, this scare will help the family avoid a similar scenario in the future.
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