On Sunday morning, a group of junior hockey players fishing in the Gulf of Mexico found a charter boat captain overboard near Panama City, Florida. When they pulled him on board their boat, New Beginning, they found he had been swimming in the dark for nearly seven hours without a life jacket.
The captain’s boat, the Fiona Leone, had been on autopilot when he fell overboard early on the morning of July 3. A crew member notified the Coast Guard around 4:00 a.m. but the captain remained stranded in open water for hours.
Reportedly, the captain was trying to get back to shore. “He just swam for 14 miles,” passenger Harper Kunath told WMBB news. And despite his marathon-style swim, passengers on New Beginning said that the captain was 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,” said another passenger.
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Three U.S. Coast Guard crews responded to the scene. They helped the captain find and retrieve his boat and returned him to port. “We’d like to commend the crew of the New Beginning on their vigilance and willingness to help,” Captain Cassie Kitchen, a Sector Mobile search and rescue mission coordinator, told WMBB news. “To survive in the water without a life jacket as the captain did is difficult for anyone to accomplish.”