Rescued boy reunited with U.S. Coast Guard crew

Published 07/29 2014 09:42PM

Updated 07/29 2014 10:33PM

CHICAGO, IL. (CBS & WFRV) This was the scene several weeks ago in Door County - a happy ending after an intense search for three missing kayakers who spent the night on Lake Michigan.

 Today one of those rescued,  a 9-year-old Illinois boy,  was reunited with those who pulled him to safety.

The boy and two relatives got into trouble during a Door County vacation. The three spent over 17 hours out on the water before being rescued.

 Tuesday an emotional reunion in the Chicago area and a chance to say "thank you."

You would not guess it by his reluctant walk or how tightly he clutched his Lego helicopter...

 "Good to see you again!" said U.S. Coast Guard Pilot, Lt. Dan Schrader.

 However, 9-year-old Tommy Alder had been anxiously awaiting today for almost three weeks.

 "I remember see you kicking your feet and paddle back," Schrader told Tommy.

 The last time Tommy saw this Coast Guard crew, it was from the 55-degree waters of Lake Michigan on July 11. He, an aunt and cousin were 13 miles from the kayak launch they left the day before at Peninsula State Park. Pushed by strong winds, the three spent 17 hours drifting, lost on the Bay of Green Bay.

 "You remember this part don't cha?" said Schrader.

 "I knew what time they were supposed to be in and I was concerned when I did not them see them out in the water," said Leslie Alder, Tommy's mom.

 During a long, overnight search a crew with the Royal Canadian Air Force spotted the two missing kayaks tied together; Tommy, his aunt and cousin - cold, scared, but alive.

 This Coast Guard crew based in Traverse City, Michigan was notified - they flew in pulling all to safety.

 "We were worried about how he was so we got the rescue swimmer down pretty quickly," said the Lt. Schrader.

 In addition, mom says it was the rescue swimmer - Tommy now refers to as "scuba man" - who left the biggest impression.

 "I must've looked like a scuba man with the mask on," said the crewmember.

 "We just want to extend our heartfelt thanks to the crew and to the Royal Canadian Air Force and everyone else who made this possible for us to have our Tommy back," said Leslie Alder.

 A very lucky 9-year-old boy, with quite a story to tell, each and every time he talks about his favorite helicopter.

 "Thank you for everyone who helped me," said little Tommy.

 Rescuers say the three did everything right the night they were lost.  They kept their life jackets on and tied the kayaks together.

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