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'By the grace of God we're here': 7-y-o Florida boy swims an hour to save his father, sister

Chase Poust
Chase Poust shares how he swam for an hour to reach the shore and get help to save his father and sister who were swept away by the current in St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida, on May 28, 2021. |

Chase Poust, A 7-year-old Florida boy, is being hailed as a hero after he swam for an hour to reach the shore and get help to save his father and sister who were overtaken by a strong current in St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida, on Friday night.

Steven Poust, Chase's father, anchored his boat so that his children, Chase, 7, and Abigail, 4, could jump in the river for a swim while he fished. Suddenly a strong current picked up and Abigal was overtaken by it. 

Chase told WJXT that he instinctively let go of the boat to go after his sister but the current got him as well. Poust jumped into the water to rescue his children but the waves were just too strong.

"I told them I loved them because I wasn't sure what's going to happen," Poust told WJXT. "I tried to stick with (Abigail) as long as I could, with both of them, I wore myself out and she drifted away from me." 

The concerned father told Chase to swim to shore for help. The young boy wasn't required to wear a life so he didn't have one on, and although he got tired, he swam and floated on his back for over an hour until he was finally able to reach the shore and knock on a neighbors door for help.

His sister, Abigail, was kept afloat because she was wearing a life jacket, as required by law for children her age. Abigail and her father had drifted about 2 miles away from the boat's location before rescue teams arrived. 

While the rescue teams said they had already been alerted that an adult and child were in the water and screaming for help, information that Chase provided confirmed the distress calls they had received about a boating accident.  

The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, Sheriff’s Office and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rescued Poust and his daughter. 

"We're here. By the grace of God, we're here," Poust declared.

A spokesperson for the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department said at a news conference that they reached the boat but had to call in other agencies to expand the search. The outcome could have been different had the other agencies not stepped in to help. 

"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," the spokesperson said. "We couldn't ask for a better outcome."

Chase nor his dad were required by Florida law to wear a life vest because jackets are only required for children younger than age 6, and on boats less than 26 feet long.

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