TODAY   |  August 10, 2011

Boy brought back to life after ocean rescue

The dramatic rescue of a 12-year-old boy, trapped underwater in the Pacific Ocean for 20 minutes after being pulled to sea by a powerful rip current, was captured by a local photographer. TODAY’s Natalie Morales reports.

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MATT LAUER, co-host: A 12 -year-old boy is very lucky to be alive this morning after he was pulled out to sea by a powerful rip current . He was trapped underwater in the Pacific ocean for 20 minutes before he was saved. Natalie has more on that story. Natalie , good morning, again.

NATALIE MORALES, anchor: And, Matt , that dramatic rescue was captured by a local photographer as the boy's friends watched helplessly. Twelve-year old Dale Ostrander , a nonswimmer on a youth group beach trip, was swept out to sea by a strong rip current off the coast of Washington on Friday. With members of Dale 's church group bent in prayer, rescuers crisscrossed the ocean, desperately searching for the boy for 20 long minutes. They found him under water and unconscious, his lifeless body rushed to the hospital where his pulse finally returned. His parents, Chad and Kirsten , raced from their home three hours away with their faith in God, but a grim prognosis from doctors.

Ms. KIRSTEN OSTRANDER (Dale's Mother): They were very clear that it...

Mr. CHAD OSTRANDER (Dale's Father): No.

Ms. OSTRANDER: ...he'd been under water too long, he'd been without oxygen too long.

Mr. OSTRANDER: Likely he's going to die. No matter what happens, everything's going to be good because we have -- we have a strong faith in God.

Ms. OSTRANDER: Mm-hmm.

Mr. OSTRANDER: And he's never let us down, and good things will come no matter if it hurts us, you know, if we have to say goodbye to our son. They never expected him to live, they expected him to be a vegetable, never walk...

Ms. OSTRANDER: Never talk.

Mr. OSTRANDER: ...never talk, never say a word. And that would have been fine.

MORALES: But Sunday night three days after Dale 's limp body had arrived at the Portland hospital , Dale surprised everyone by opening his eyes.

Mr. OSTRANDER: Dale , open your eyes. And he's....

Ms. OSTRANDER: Dale -- it was the first response we got.

Mr. OSTRANDER: And...

MORALES: His parents describe Dale as an average boy who likes to play with Legos and tell bad jokes. On Monday, just days after being plucked from the ocean, it was Dale who delivered some more good news.

Ms. OSTRANDER: We were trying to get him to cough. And, 'Come on, Dale , cough, cough.'

Mr. OSTRANDER: To get the congestion.

Ms. OSTRANDER: 'You need to cough,' and he coughed once. We said, 'OK, you need to do it again, do more.' 'I don't need to,' is what he said. First thing...

Mr. OSTRANDER: And we're like looking at each other.

Ms. OSTRANDER: ...we're like -- everybody, 'He spoke! Oh my goodness, a full sentence.'

Mr. OSTRANDER: Yeah.

Ms. OSTRANDER: It was amazing. The whole room was 'wow, OK, I guess he's -- doesn't need to.'

Mr. OSTRANDER: We had a lot of people pray -- we had people praying all over the world .

MORALES: Doctors say Dale 's still got a long way to go but his parents are just happy to have their son back.

Mr. OSTRANDER: They expected him to die. So...

Ms. OSTRANDER: So anything at this point is just -- is bonus.

MORALES: And it is unclear how long Dale will have to remain in the hospital. Doctors say he may need months of intense therapy. But everyone agrees the fact that he is alive and he's talking in full sentences is nothing short of remarkable, Matt. Truly a miracle.