Hernando deputies save infant strapped into car seat in overturned canoe

Hernando County

WEEKI WACHE, Fla. (WFLA) — Two Hernando County deputies rescued a 4-month-old from drowning in an overturned canoe Friday on the Weeki Wachee River.

Marine Deputy Steve Snell and Patrol Deputy Zachary Burkhart were on their lunch break around 2:30 p.m. when they heard and saw a woman in the water screaming, “My baby!”

“There were some branches overhanging that portion of the river so they leaned in the canoe to try to avoid those branches and they capsized,” Deputy Snell said.

Snell and Burkhart rode a watercraft to the canoe, turned it over and found a car seat upside down in the water. Burkhart pulled the seat up from the water and found an infant strapped in the seat, not breathing.

The deputies immediately directed their watercraft back toward the shoreline so they could administer first aid. When they got there, the deputies said the baby opened its eyes and began to cry.

“When I saw the baby’s eyes open and start to cry that was a relief,” Deputy Burkhart said.

The 4-month-old was transported to the hospital and is in stable condition.

The sheriff’s office determined that the canoe tipped over when the parents leaned over to avoid hitting branches. Deputies said it was also a windy day with a strong current.

“You know, it’s just a blessing. Everything worked out. It was fortunate that he was with me, that it occurred where it did. We were together, and like we said, we did it without thinking,” Deputy Snell said.

Deputies said that when the parents rented the canoe, the person in charge of the rental company placed a life jacket on the child, but said the parents later took it back off.

The infant’s father received a citation for not keeping a life jacket on the baby.

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