PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — It’s been a crazy day for a commercial fishing boat captain after falling overboard in the Gulf of Mexico around midnight and being stranded for nearly seven hours.
Fortunately, a group of Good Samaritans were able to rescue him on Sunday morning.
A team of Nashville junior hockey players and their dads were on a charter fishing trip 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 over there! “”
The United States Coast Guard said a commercial fishing boat captain fell overboard around midnight without a life jacket.
A crew member of the captain’s boat, the Fiona Leone, informed the USCG around 4 a.m. Sunday that he had fallen overboard while the boat was on autopilot.
The charter fishing group said it was a miracle they found the man around 7am on Sunday.
“If the sun hadn’t been up, we probably would have hit it by accident,” passenger Landon Little said. “He swam for seven hours.”
“He just swam 14 miles,” passenger Harper Kunath added.
Even after seven hours of swimming in open water, they said the man overboard was perfectly fine.
“He’s not tired, he’s not out of breath,” passenger Griffin Reddington said. “Like, that was crazy.”
“He looked like nothing was wrong with him,” added First Lt. Spencer Davis. “He was just excited to see us.”
They said the man was not in physical distress, but was grateful to 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 up the captain from the Good Samaritans and brought him safely back to Fiona Leone.
Hockey players-turned-heroes said the fishing trip on the New Beginning would be a memory for a lifetime.
“First fishing trip, find a guy… At least we caught something big,” laughed Little.