VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The McClung family is now cherishing the little moments after they learned it only takes a second for their life to change.
The family of five said it started out as a Mother's Day trip to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. They had joined other friends to celebrate the Sunday on the beach.
Mike and Vania McClung brought their three children with them. Mike said he went to sit by his friends while he watched the children run around the beach.
That's when he saw his eight-year-old son, Ashton, put his feet in the water by the jetty at Rudee Loop.
"I was going to get some water and then I was playing in the water and then it just happened, got sucked in the water," Ashton explained they scary moment.
A rip current pulled Ashton's feet out from under him. That's when Mike said he ran straight toward the water to rescue his son. His wife, Vania, said she even tried to grab them from the rocks, but the water kept pulling them away.
"You know, I know that area of water. I'm familiar with it. I jumped in to get him. Wallet, phones, keys all in my pockets. I didn't wait," said Mike. "I get to out there to him fine and I'm holding him, but I'm not moving, not getting anywhere. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't get enough air into my lungs until about halfway to the hospital."
Virginia Beach Fire Captain Zeb Moseley is one of the first responders who showed up quickly to the scene.
"We got underway from the fireboat and the jet ski and we had a real short response time from the inlet around the rocks," Captain Moseley explained, showing 13News Now how the fireboat and jet ski were stationed just seconds away from the scene. "These rip currents...they're not forgiving."
Captain Moseley said situations like the one the McClung family faced are a good reminder for others to stay on high alert, especially with the upcoming Memorial Day weekend where more people are expected to travel to the beaches in Hampton Roads.
"Swim near lifeguards, and if there's any questions, ask the lifeguard. Know that they are there," said Captain Moseley. "Stay away from the jetty. Especially once Memorial Day hits, this isn't a swimming area anyway. It's more for surfing."
Now the McClung family wants to warn others, even if you're paying close attention, these rip currents can take someone away in a blink of an eye.
"Even though they're good swimmers, it's still a danger, so be careful out there and respect the ocean," said Mike's wife, Vania. "So thankful for all the people who jumped in to help us. God got us. God was there and the angels were there to protect us and protect Ashton. We're very thankful we had a good ending to this story."
Ashton said he feels grateful for the crews who acted quickly, saying, "Thank you to all the lifeguards who came out to save me."
"I'm super grateful. Thankful to God and thankful to the guys that did their job, and girls," said Mike.
The McClung family said they did not see any flags up at the lifeguard stand when they went to the beach that day.
Virginia Beach fire crews remind everyone if you see the flags up on the lifeguard stands at the beach, you are encouraged to stay out of the water.