PHUKET, Thailand – The third time was the charm.
Rescue workers freed a humpback dolphin (search) from a small lagoon where the Asian tsunami (search) dumped it and returned it to the Andaman Sea in a rare story of survival 10 days after the massive waves crushed posh tourist resorts in the surrounding Khao Lak area.
The dolphin, spotted Monday about a half a mile from the beach by a man searching for his missing wife, had become a symbol of hope amid the death and destruction.
But efforts to free it Monday and Tuesday failed, first because the nets were too small, then because trees and other debris on the bottom of the lagoon apparently tore holes in the nets and allowed the dolphin to slip out.
Officials had planned to wait until Saturday to try again, but local fishermen and soldiers showed up Wednesday afternoon with a double net.
As about 150 people watched, soldiers lined the length of the nets, splashing to herd the dolphin into a corner of the lagoon. It managed to jump the first net, but then was trapped between the two nets.
The soldiers put in on a stretcher and pulled it up the muddy bank and into a pickup truck. where it was laid on an air mattress and driven to the sea.
The rescuers then walked out into the water and released the dolphin, which quickly swam away.