An 11-year-old British schoolboy’s instincts took over when he saw a toddler struggling in the water during a beach trip with his parents. The boy, without concern for himself, leapt from a pier to retrieve the younger child and pull him back to the safety of the shore.
Eli Harrison’s parents say their son didn’t hesitate.
“We’d gone down to the beach for the day, and as we were walking along my husband saw the little boy in the water,” Eli’s mother, Kayleigh, a health care worker, explained to Teesside Live, “but before he’d managed to take his bag off, Eli had run and jumped off the pier into the water.”
The toddler was floating about 30 yards from the North Side shoreline at the village of Staithes in North Yorkshire, England. Evidently, he had ventured into the water while his parents’ backs were turned, clutching a small fishing net.
Eli, a strong swimmer, jumped from the pier and reached the younger child with ease, despite having to navigate his way around a number of small fishing boats.
“As he swam back he had one arm round [the toddler’s] tummy and you could see water coming out the bairn’s mouth,” Kayleigh recalled, “it was bad.”
Eli’s mom commented that the child’s parents had only lost sight of their son for a split second, “but that’s all it takes,” she reflected.
The capable 11-year-old made it back to shore and returned the boy, who had swallowed some seawater but was otherwise unharmed, to his parents. The child’s mother gave Eli 10 pounds (US$13) as a reward for his instinctive bravery.
Kayleigh explained that Eli and his two siblings—Billy, 12, and Gypsie-Rose, 9—are all water babies, having grown up by the seaside in Staithes. Eli understands sea currents and tides, she said, and has won awards for his swimming prowess.
A number of Harrison family members have also volunteered with their local lifeboat crew, assisting in the operation of the lifeboat during rescues and caring for those who are pulled out of the water.
The UK’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a volunteer-run organization whose philosophy, staffers profess on their official website, “remains the same as it was in 1824.” The organization’s ethos is to provide lifesaving services via a 24-hour on-call lifeboat search-and-rescue team and a seasonal lifeguard service to promote public safety.
As of 2020, the RNLI possesses a fleet of 400 lifeboats covering 19,000 miles of British coastline.
At the time of writing, Eli Harrison has just left Seton Community Primary School in Staithes and is preparing to start his secondary school education. His parents are extremely proud of his accomplishments, both academic and extracurricular.
That day on Aug. 7, Eli may just have saved a life.
“The mother carried [her toddler] off down the beach but Eli needed to check he was okay,” Kayleigh said of her son, whose bravery extended beyond his impromptu sea rescue; the young swimmer has even intimated that he wants to follow in his family’s footsteps and volunteer with the lifeboat crew when he grows up.
“He saved his life,” Kayleigh added. “He just said he did what anyone else would have done; he doesn’t realize how good it is.”
The family has set up a GoFundMe page to reward her son for his selfless act.
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