A fisherman has been rescued 12 miles off the coast of Florida after ‘struggling to stay alive’ for 38 hours in a partially submerged 12ft boat – while sharks stalked the drifting vessel.
Charles Gregory, 25, was out on a routine early morning fishing trip on Friday off the coast of St. Augustine in Florida when a wave crashed against his tiny craft and flung him into the water.
Once he had managed to get back on board, the tide carried him out and he gripped on to the vessel for hours on end, sighting sharks and getting stung by jellyfish as he battled the intense heat.
‘He was scared to death,’ his father, Raymond Gregory, told CNN Sunday.
‘He said he’s had more conversations with God in that 30 hours than he’s had his whole life.’
Charles Gregory, 25, (pictured in rescue footage) was out on a routine early morning fishing trip on Friday off the coast of St. Augustine in Florida, when a wave crashed against his tiny jon boat and flung him into the water
After a plane located Charles, a small raft is seen coming beside him and helping him onto the boat
Other than being severely sunburned, Charles did not suffer from any serious injuries
Charles is pictured on his 12-foot Jon boat in happier times
During the struggle, Charles frantically tried to keep the vessel afloat, even removing the motor to prevent it from toppling over.
Charles also tried taking off his swimming trunks to flag down nearby boats and aircraft, his father said.
According to US Coast Guard officials, Charles was in a 12-foot Jon boat, which can range in price from a few hundred dollars to more than $6,000.
Jon boats are simple boats with flat bottoms, typically made from aluminum. They are lightweight and often used for fishing.
Charles’s employer Surf Station wrote in a Facebook post: ‘On his way out the inlet, a rogue wave hit the boat and knocked it over. A second wave came and knocked everything out of the boat.
‘His life jacket was washed away by the huge wave. Charles t-shirt, cell phone, and all his belongings were in the front of the boat, and all sank, including his sunglasses, hat, and more. His radio, flares, horn, everything sank to the bottom of the ocean.’
The company added: ‘It rained at night, which was good but very cold with nothing to insulate [his] bare skin. Charles got so cold and was shivering so badly, he threw up seven times.’
Coast Guard watchstanders had received a report from Charles’s family on Friday evening that he had not returned to the Lighthouse Park Boat Ramp.
On Saturday morning, a HC-130 Hercules airplane aircrew discovered him around 12 miles offshore.
Video released by the Coast Guard shows him sitting in the middle of the partially submerged boat with his feet under the water.
On Saturday morning, a HC-130 Hercules airplane aircrew discovered Charles around 12 miles offshore
Video released by the Coast Guard shows Charles sitting in the middle of the partially submerged boat
When he spots the rescue boat Charles waves over to the crew, breathing a sigh of relief
The black-and-white footage shows the boat edging closer to the exhausted 25-year-old
Charles is then seen being pulled aboard as he musters up the energy to step onto the boat
After the plane located him, a small raft was seen coming beside him and pulling him on board.
Charles was transferred to the shore, where he received aid from the emergency services and shared a touching reunion with his family.
Footage shows the lobster red 25-year-old being stretchered while his blubbering mom thanks the coast guard and fire recue teams.
Charles is now resting at home, dehydrated, exhausted and suffering from Rhabdomyolysis, a condition involving the rapid dissolution of damaged or injured skeletal muscle.
His father said that while the bruises, bites and sunburn are making it hard for him to leave his bed, he is expected to be okay and it is great to have his son back.
When asked what kept him going during the ordeal, Charles told Surf Station: ‘Honestly, thinking about my parents. It sounds cheesy, but I couldn’t help the thought of them not knowing… what ever happened to me, if I were not to make it. I had left without telling them, and being that far out in the ocean, no one knew where I was.’
Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville Commander Nick Barrow said: ‘While this case resulted in rescuing Charles from a life-threatening situation, it highlights the importance of having safety gear onboard and being prepared for the worst.’
‘If you plan to head out on the water, remember to have a life jacket, VHF marine grade radio, signaling devices and an emergency personal locator beacon to contact first responders in case you are in need of assistance,’ he added.