PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — It was a crazy day for a commercial fishing boat captain after he fell overboard in the Gulf of Mexico around midnight and was stranded — for nearly seven hours.
Luckily, a group of good Samaritans was able to rescue him Sunday morning.
A team of junior hockey players from Nashville and their dads went on a charter fishing tour with “New Beginning” early Sunday morning, when they spotted something strange.
“I saw a gentleman waving,” passenger Ryan VanBuskirk said. “I said, ‘That’s a human out there!'”
The United States Coast Guard said a commercial fishing boat captain fell overboard around midnight— with no life jacket.
A crew member on the captain’s boat, the Fiona Leone, notified the USCG around 4 a.m. Sunday that he fell overboard while the boat was on autopilot.
The charter fishing group said it’s a miracle they found the man around 7 a.m. on Sunday.
“If the sun was not up, we probably would’ve hit him on accident,” passenger Landon Little said. “He swam for seven hours.”
“He just swam for 14 miles,” passenger Harper Kunath added.
Even after seven hours of swimming in the open waters, they said the man overboard was totally fine.
“He’s not tired, he’s not out of breath,” passenger Griffin Reddington said. “Like, it was crazy.”
“He looked like nothing was wrong with him,” first mate Spencer Davis added. “He was just excited to see us.”
They said the man was in no physical distress, but he was grateful for the crew.
“He wanted to go fishing with us, but the Coast Guard had to pick him up,” passenger Austin Reigle said.
The USCG said they picked the captain up from the good Samaritans and safely brought him back to the Fiona Leone.
The hockey players-turned-heroes said the fishing trip on the New Beginning will be a memory for a lifetime.
“First fishing trip, find a guy… At least we caught something big,” Little laughed.