KEY BISCAYNE (CBSMiami) – Four fisherman thrown from their sinking boat are alive after they spent more than 12 hours floating in the water off of Key Biscayne.
“Some people don’t even make it that long but I think their will power allowed them to stay alive,” said Lt. Ignatius Carroll, with Miami Fire Rescue.
The U.S. Coast Guard says the 22-foot Seacraft boat sank in rough waters at around 7:00 p.m. Friday night. Fire boats and divers began their search Saturday morning after one of the men managed to swim to shore and get help.
“This one person was determined to get to shore and he swam to shore and advised responders that there were 3 other people still missing,” said Carroll.
Officials said the man-made it to shore early Saturday morning and Coast Guard put out a distress call for the other three men around 6:30 a.m.
“Had that one person not been determined to make it to shore to 911 we probably would still be out there looking for them or not even known that they were out there at all,” said Carroll.
Eduardo Ortega, one of the missing men, said in Spanish as he was put on an ambulance, that he thought his life was over while he was alone and missing in the water overnight.
“[The men] were able to stay together for a short period of time but the rough seas and the winds ended up pulling them apart,” said Carroll.
Ortega and a second fisherman were spotted by other boaters and pulled to safety. Rescue crews found the third fisherman, Yasel Lopez, and brought him to shore by 9:00 a.m. Saturday morning. All were found miles apart from one another, and about 2 to 3 miles off shore.
The three men pulled from the water were taken to Mercy Hospital, some suffering from hypothermia and dehydration. One remains in the intensive care unit.
The Coast Guard said all four men were wearing life vests and those are credited with helping save their lives.
“If it wasn’t for the life jackets, all of the men would probably have not survived,” said Officer Luis Baez with the U.S. Coast Guard.
Lopez’ mother in law says she is thankful to God that he made it out alive.
“Horrible, horrible,” she said, adding she can’t imagine what he must have gone through alone in the dark, cold water all night.