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8-year-old rescued after six hours in Dead Sea

An 8-year-old Israeli boy was found alive after spending six hours floating at night in the Dead Sea, rescue workers said Sunday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

An 8-year-old Israeli boy spent six hours floating in the Dead Sea alone at night after his father left him there by accident during a family trip, police said Sunday.

They said they would not press charges against the errant parent.

The Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth and one of Israel’s most popular tourist attractions, has an abnormally high salt concentration that allows swimmers to float on the surface.

Rescue workers said the boy, Shneur Zalman Friedman, from Jerusalem, was in the sea with his father and two brothers on Thursday evening when currents swept him away from shore, without anyone else noticing.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the family was part of a large group visiting a beach reserved for ultra-Orthodox Jewish men — who do not bathe in the presence of women — away from main public areas.

His father left the water with other members of the group and only noticed the boy was missing as darkness fell, Rosenfeld said.

A major search by police helicopters and volunteers in motorboats finally found Shneur about 2 miles from the shore early Friday after six hours in the strong-smelling, corrosive water, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav of the Zaka rescue organization said.

The boy was dehydrated and frightened but otherwise healthy, he said. Shneur told his rescuers he remained calm throughout the ordeal, saying prayers and thinking about his school friends as he floated in the darkness.

“The boy said that he didn’t try to swim, he just drifted with the current,” Rosenfeld said.

The mineral-laden waters of the Dead Sea helped keep the boy afloat but could have choked him had he panicked and swallowed large quantities, said Omer Cohen of the Megilot volunteer rescue unit.

After hours of fruitless searching, workers had all but given up hope of finding the boy alive.

“We thought we were looking for a body,” Cohen said. “We were surprised to find the boy alive and well.”