With his grandparents drifting away from the boat, he steps up to save them. He’s 11.
A Hollywood couple and their 11-year-old grandson were rescued at sea by police, the U.S. Coast Guard and some commercial fishermen on Thursday.
And the coast guard and police authorities praise the boy for staying calm during the ordeal and following the instructions from the authorities.
At around 2:04 pm, 11-year-old Avani Perez called 911 on a cell phone to report that his grandparents, Jim and Kim Harris, were in the water and getting off their boat, according to the Monroe County sheriff's office.
The family was boating near Rodriguez Key on mile 99 in Islamorada when the anchor line of their 21-foot mako was caught in the propeller, police said.
Jim Harris, 53, went into the water to free the pipe but ran into problems.
Avani Perez, 11-year-old from Hollywood, Florida, received praise from the U.S. Coast Guard in Islamorada and law enforcement agencies for saving his grandparents from the sea on October 8, 2020.
His wife went into the water with a pool noodle, but then they both began to move away from the boat.
"The current was strong and we were drawn in," said Kim Harris, 54, on Friday night. “We are both swimmers. We couldn't get back to the boat. The current was so strong. "
Her grandson immediately asked if he should call the Coast Guard. They told him to call 911.
"He treated himself," said his grandmother. "We never lost sight of the boat, but we could only visualize it for 15 minutes."
No injuries were sustained.
"We were floating on the pool noodle the whole time," said Kim Harris. "We were thirsty because it was salt water and it was hot out there."
While they were in the ocean, the boy spoke to communications specialist Amanda Coleman for an hour.
"Coleman reported that Perez kept his head straight, put on a life jacket and walked through all of the boat's safety equipment," said Adam Linhardt, the sheriff's spokesman.
Perez described how far away his grandparents occupied Coleman with steps the size of a football field until he could no longer see them.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Coast Guard responded.
While the couple was concerned for the boy, they knew deep down that he could handle the situation.
U.S. Coast Guard Islamorada praised 11-year-old Avani Perez from Hollywood, Florida for his heroic actions in saving his grandparents from the sea on October 8, 2020.
"The whole time we've been in the water we know he did," said Kim Harris. "He was raised on a boat."
FWC alerted other seafarers and professional fishermen.
After about an hour, a few commercial fishermen, including a man they identified as Ernie Piton, brought the couple to safety.
"They could reach me and pull me up on the platform," said Kim Harris.
The couple are seasoned sailors who enjoy visiting the Keys.
"We've lived our lives on the water," said Kim Harris. "We're always on boats. That something like this happens is traumatic."
The police praised the 911 specialist along with the boy.
"The outcome of this case could have been tragic if 911 communications specialist Amanda Coleman hadn't stepped on the table, put all of her training on the table, and proceeded with the utmost professionalism," said Sheriff Rick Ramsay.
Perez, a sixth grader at Nativity Catholic School in Hollywood, said he doesn't feel like a hero.
"I did what I had to do," he said. “There was no second choice. It had to happen. "
Experience didn't stop him from wanting to be on the water.
"I wasn't scared or anything, and I'm not scared of the water at all," said Perez.
The U.S. Coast Guard invited Perez to the Islamorada Coast Guard on Friday to commend him for his actions during the ordeal. He received a gold coin from the unit.
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