An 18-month-old boy who escaped from his parents' tent and ended up in the ocean was rescued by a fisherman as he nearly drowned. The incident took place in New Zealand's Matata Beach on North Island, reports said Sunday.

Gus Hutt, a holiday camper staying on the beach, was fishing when he spotted a small figure floating in the water. Initially, he thought it was a doll but later realised it was a child after the toddler "let out a little squeak." 

"I reached out and grabbed him by the arm, I still thought it was a doll," Hutt told local outlet the NZ Herald. "His face looked just like porcelain with his short hair wetted down, but then he let out a little squeak and I thought, 'oh God, this is a baby and it's alive'."

"He was floating at a steady pace... if I had been just a minute later, I wouldn't have seen him," Hutt said. "He was bloody lucky, but he just wasn't meant to go, it wasn't his time."

Hutt's wife, Sue, alerted the camp's staff who informed them there was only one couple staying with a toddler. Emergency services were also alerted and the child's parents were informed.

"Apparently the baby had been very excited to be on the beach. It was the couple's first night staying here. It's the first time they've been here," Rebecca Salter, the co-owner of Murphy's Holiday Camp, told the BBC. "Hutt, who is a fisherman and one of our regulars, spotted the baby. [They brought the baby to us], we wrapped him up in towels and Sue went to inform the baby's parents."

The child's mother "screamed" when she was informed the toddler was found in the water. The child's parents later thanked Hutt for the saving the toddler's life. 

"It came as a shock to everyone. It was a very, very lucky result... it could have been a very tragic incident," Salter said. "It's a freakish miracle."

Emergency services arrived with the Matata Volunteer Fire Brigade and treated the boy for 15 minutes before an ambulance arrived to take him to Whakatāne Hospital, local media reported.

It was "horrible in between hearing that and seeing him," the child's mother Jessica Whyte told local media Stuff. "I don't think my heart [beat] from hearing that to seeing him. I don't think my heart worked."