Declan O'Connor was playing on an inflatable unicorn pool toy at the beach in North Carolina last week when a fun situation turned scary: wind swept the float out to sea, as the 8-year-old's panicked family frantically tried to reach the boy, who was not wearing a life jacket. "I was really scared and thinking like I might die and all that stuff," Declan told ABC News Tuesday. His mom called 911, and Oak Island Water Rescue got a team of volunteers out quickly. Declan was saved and reunited with his family—and the rescue team turned the incident into a teaching moment, posting photos on Facebook along with a few pieces of advice.
"Once it was out past the waves, the big float acted like a sail and the unicorn float kept going away from the beach"—he may have been as far as a half-mile from shore by the time he was rescued, the group posted, suggesting that people avoid using floats at the beach for this exact reason. It also suggested children wear life jackets at the beach. "The young man did an amazing job of staying calm and remaining on the float," the group said. "When Boat 4491 reached him, he told the crew not to pop the unicorn float or they would get in trouble." As for Declan, he took the lesson learned to heart: "Now I know never go out on a float ever again in the ocean," he told ABC. (Read more uplifting news stories.)