GIBSONTON, Fla. (FOX 13) - Hillsborough County rescue crews pulled a 9-year-old from a waterway in Gibsonton, Florida, Wednesday but the boy did not survive.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said the child was in Bullfrog Creek, which runs behind Whispering Waters Way, with his mother, uncle and three other children. The sheriff said the mom and uncle swam across the creek, leaving the boy on the other side.
"The nine-year-old child is on the side of the embankment, decides he wants to get in the water a little further," Chronsiter said. "His mom begs him, 'please, stay where you're at, stay where you're at, stay where you're at.'"
But investigators said the boy didn't listen, took a few steps, then fell into an area of the water that between 10 and 12 feet deep.
Witnesses and neighbors dove in to try to rescue the boy.
"The first thing I saw was his mother on the ground crying, 'he's in the water, he's in the water!' So I ran home, got something on that I could swim with, jumped in the water and started looking for him," said Adrian Buhler, a maintenance worker for the trailer park.
Dive teams from the sheriff's office continued the search and, about 30 minutes after he went under, the boy was found and pulled to the surface. He was rushed to the hospital, but paramedics were not able to save him.
During the ordeal, Buhler said witnesses had the same emotion.
"Dread," he said. "I mean, to lose a child in any form or fashion is just the worst."
Robin Morales-Perez, the park manager, said she urges residents to stay away from the creek because the current can be strong and the mud on the bottom can act like a suction cup, preventing swimmers from walking out.
"I make sure to tell them: don't go near the river. Don't go fish down there. Just don't go near it. Why they took it upon themselves to make it a day thing and swimming...I don't understand," she said. "It's really heart-breaking."
The sheriff said awful situations like this can be learning situations for all parents.
"I don't want this to sound insensitive, but if you have a child that doesn't know how to swim, I think you as a parent have to be the one to protect them from getting close to the water, or even putting that child in proximity where he could ever be in danger," Chronister said. "You have to make sure that that child is nowhere near water to where this type of situation can ever occur."
The sheriff said this appears to be an accident, but deputies are continuing to investigate.