Hillsborough deputy sees boy go underwater, ‘I removed the belt and went in’

Deputy Efrain Tavares

APOLLO BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) – There wasn’t a moment of hesitation.  No overthinking.  No second-guessing.

As Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Efrain Tavares stood on the banks of a retention pond and watched a 9-year-old boy head into deeper water, instinct kicked in.

“That’s when I realized gotta do what I gotta do.  That’s what we train for,” Tavares said.

Zach Durante, who has autism, lives a few blocks from the pond and was drawn there by one of his favorite things: ducks.

His dad called deputies when the boy took off and they found him in the area like they have before.

The family uses a SafetyNet bracelet, which tracks people at high risk of wandering away, but it wasn’t necessary Tuesday because Deputy Tavares responded so quickly.

“At one point, he went under.  So, that’s when I removed the belt and went in.  And he went down a second time,” the deputy said.

The deputy got to the boy before it was too late and pulled him out of the murky water.

Those who live in Apollo Beach aren’t the least bit surprised

“I can tell you he’s probably one of the nicest guys I know in our community and he’s always there to help,” said resident Eric Snyder.

“We’re here to serve, protect and also save lives,” Tavares said.

A modest reaction from a man many now consider a hero.

“When I put on the uniform, it’s just I go out there to serve and do what I need to do,” Tavares said.

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