Only On 8: Father, son rescued by Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office helicopter

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – It was a day in the park that turned into anything but fun for one Tampa Bay area family.

Juan Duenas and his 9-year-old son Mateo were riding their bikes for hours at the Alafia State Park in Lithia when they decided to take a trail they usually don’t.

That turned out to be a mistake because the two got lost and it got dark.

“I was having a good time,” Mateo told News Channel 8 as he described the ride with his dad before they got lost.

“You’re in the middle of nowhere pretty much,” said Juan.  “And all you see is just trees around you, trees around you and you cannot find a way out.”

The two were tired and confused and that’s when Juan called 911.

“We been trying to find the exit but we keep going in circles,” Juan recalls.

So as the 911 dispatcher kept Juan on the line, deputies soon realized that it would be too tough to reach them by land, so they put the chopper up.

News Channel 8 also obtained the 911 call and in part of it you can hear Mateo shouting,

“They’re here. They’re here,” as he spotted the sheriff’s chopper overheard with the pilot streaming the spotlight on them.

“He’s right on top of us,” Juan told the dispatcher. “He’s right on top of us.”

The dispatcher responded, “All right sir. If you have a flashlight, turn it on and start waving it towards them, OK?”

“I am, yeah,” Juan replied.

After finding a safe place to land the chopper, the two were scooped up and taken to safety.

“They were in for a long night had it not been for the aviation unit that spotted them and were able to get them back home safely,” said Cpl. Larry McKinnon of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

He tells us this is one of about six to eight rescues they perform like this every year.

Despite the scare, both father and son agree it brought them closer together.

“So we bonded closer and closer together so we know like what we have in common,”  said Mateo.

He told us  the two are now planning their next ride.

“No more new trails,” Juan told News Channel 8.  “[We] will just keep to the old trail,” he said, laughing.

The sheriff’s office tells us that rescue took about an hour.

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