Fisherman Rescues Toddler from the Sea: ‘This Is a Baby and It’s Alive!’

'His face looked like porcelain,' said the hero

A New Zealand fisherman’s simple change of routine resulted in what can only be described as a miracle for one lucky family.

Gus Hutt, a local fisherman on New Zealand’s Matata Beach, spotted something floating on the waves as he began his day of fishing on October 26.

What he had spotted was so still atop the waves, so at first he thought it was a doll, reported The Sydney Morning Herald.

He waded in, reached out, and grabbed the “doll” by the arm.

“His face looked like porcelain with his short hair wetted down,” Hutt told The Whakatane Beacon.

“But then he let out a little squeak and I thought, ‘Oh God, this is a baby and it’s alive.’”

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He added, “He was floating at a steady pace with a rip in the water. If I hadn’t been there, or if I had just been a minute later, I wouldn’t have seen him.”

The still-floating figure was actually 18-month-old Malachi Reeve, who had escaped from his parents’ camping tent at Murphy’s Holiday Camp on Matata Beach.

Miraculously, Hutt had changed his routine that morning.

Usually, he would head straight out from his camping spot to fish, he noted — but on that particular morning he decided to walk 100 meters (a little over 106 yards) to the left. It was in that distance that a young life was saved.

“He was bloody lucky, but he just wasn’t meant to go,” said Hutt. “It wasn’t his time.”

It turns out that young Reeve had pulled the zipper up on his family’s tent while his parents were still asleep. He wriggled underneath the flap and headed for the ocean.

Hutt later traced Malachi’s footsteps down to the water, about 16 yards away from where he’d been fishing.

The toddler usually slept past 8 a.m., his mother Jessica Whyte said, as reported by the Herald.

She surmised that the sound of the waves might have woken the child; the previous day he had repeatedly tried to run into the ocean — repeatedly stopped by his parents.

“My husband came around the corner with the baby in his arms,” she said. “I ran into the house and grabbed a whole heap of towels and blankets so he would be warm. He was just whimpering the whole time.”

Murphy’s Holiday Camp co-owner Rebecca Salter called the rescue both “miraculous and fateful,” according to the Associated Press.

Salter said she and her husband were drinking coffee when the drama unfolded.

“My husband came around the corner with the baby in his arms,” she said. “I ran into the house and grabbed a whole heap of towels and blankets so he would be warm. He was just whimpering the whole time.”

Whyte was notified at 7:30 a.m. on that fateful morning that her son had been found, but it didn’t register at first.

It felt like “a sick joke,” she told New Zealand news website Stuff.

“She [Hutt’s wife Sue Hutt] was like, ‘Do you guys have a young child?’” said Whyte.

Then she was told her toddler had been found in the ocean.

“It was horrible in between hearing that and seeing him. I don’t think my heart [beat] from hearing that to seeing him. I don’t think my heart worked. It was scary but he was breathing, he was alive,” she said.

“Oh, God, it was amazing seeing him. I gave him a big hug.”

Whyte tearfully thanked Hutt, who had tears in his eyes, too, she said.

Whyte said that while she knows some people will judge her for her parenting, that isn’t what’s most important to her.

“Zip your tents up. And zip them up nice and high if you’ve got a child [who] can reach [them]. Put them on a padlock,” she warned all parents.

“We wouldn’t let him run into the water by his own. People can have those [judgmental] thoughts. They can think we’re a bad parent. I’m more concerned about people zipping up their tents.”

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