A diver separated from his boat spent a couple of terrifying hours lost at sea until his family found him.
Dylan Gartenmayer was lost for approximately two hours after the Gulf Stream pulled him away from his boat off the coast of Key West, Florida, the U.S. Coast Guard told USA Today.
“I had a bunch of bait floating up around me and everything,” Gartenmayer told WTVJ. “I knew that there were big fish eating those baits and there were sharks that were going to be shortly behind them; I was ready to fight the night out, but I’m glad I didn’t have to.”
Gartenmayer, 21, told CNN that he has been diving and spearfishing along the Florida coast since he was 10. He thinks that helped him survive the ordeal. He told CNN that he came across a bamboo stick and used that to help him float until he was able to swim across the current back to the reef. He also tied two white mooring balls together and around his body.
Gartenmayer said that he could see a Coast Guard helicopter searching for him in the distance, but it was his family who spotted him first, USA Today reported.
“By some miracle, my parents and everyone else on board my grandfather’s boat had ended up driving and basically landed right on top of me,” he told the newspaper.
Dylan’s mother, Tabitha Gartenmayer, told WTVJ that she raced to find her son after getting a call from her ex-husband saying her son had been missing for an hour. “From that moment on, this feeling came over me, just like this, and I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t talk.”
A video shared on Facebook by Dylan’s cousin, Priscilla Gartenmayer, shows the emotional reunion as the family pulled Dylan up from the water and onto the boat.
“Everything was silent on the boat until the flashlight hit him and he put his hands up — we finally knew he was OK,” Priscilla Gartenmayer told CNN.
“Too often missing diver cases don’t have positive outcomes, and the circumstances of this case didn’t forecast for one,” Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Elizabeth Tatum told USA Today. “Sunset, weather conditions and Dylan’s outfit were playing against us in this case, but his foresight to lash mooring balls together to make him a bigger target in the water was smart.”
“If he was anyone else, I don’t think it would have been the same outcome,” Priscilla Gartenmayer told CNN. “He still knew where he was, he knew which way land was. That’s the reason he survived.”
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