A scary scene unfolded at a Little League baseball game over the past weekend in Jacksonville, Florida, when a dust devil appeared out of thin air and engulfed a 7-year-old catcher in its spiraling vortex. Within seconds, a quick-thinking umpire jumped into action to rescue the boy.
Video of the startling development showed that as the batter was taking a swing, a dust devil kicked up rocks, sand and dust right behind home plate, completely engulfing the catcher while the batter narrowly avoided its path.
The umpire, 17-year-old Aidan Wiles, could be seen moving off to the side as the dust devil seemingly strengthened before he quickly ran back in to grab the young boy, who was identified as Bauer Zoya.
“I’ve never seen anything like that my whole entire life, on or off the field,” Wiles told NBC2. “At first I was freaked out myself until I saw him trapped in it. So, I decided to run in there and grab him out of it.”
Although the whole encounter only lasted for a few seconds, Bauer told WJXT that it felt like 10 minutes.
“I couldn’t breathe that much. So I held my breath and I feel like I couldn’t touch the ground. So I kind of lifted up a little bit,” Bauer told WJXT. “I was scared…I didn’t know what to do, so I was thinking about something happy.”
Bauer’s father, Brian Zoya, told WJXT that he was thankful for Wiles’ quick thinking for helping save his son.
“A kid that just had the presence in mind to just do that, it’s just special to see,” Brian said. “It was pretty cool to see yesterday. He had great parents raising him.”
Once Bauer’s eyes were washed out with water, he returned to the game and continued playing.
The incident occurred during the second of a three-game tournament at the Fort Caroline Athletic Association baseball field. And according to CBS News, Bauer’s team did not end up winning the tournament.
A dust devil forms when there is strong surface heating, often under totally clear skies and with only light winds, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). They often form where two different surface types meet, such as dirt and asphalt.
Dust devils are often mistaken for tornadoes, which form as part of a thunderstorm and are connected to a cloud. While mostly harmless, dust devils pack wind speeds that can top 60 miles per hour, according to the NWS.
A strong dust devil can pose a danger to small structures, which can be damaged or even destroyed by the dust devil’s winds. While rare, these types of whirlwinds can cause injuries and even fatalities.
In 2019, a powerful dust devil tore through a packed tourist attraction in China’s Shaqiu City, lifting a bouncy castle into the air and tragically killing two children and injuring 20 others.
Also in 2019, a dust devil tore through a soccer field in Achocalla, Bolivia, and interrupted a local soccer game. Players and referees gathered on the side of the field and watched as this large dust devil spun across the ground, picking up a loose piece of clothing and hurling it into the air. One player was picked up by the dust devil but escaped with no injuries.
Produced in association with AccuWeather
Edited by A.J. Cooke and Joseph Hammond
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