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Florida Captain Rescued After Falling Overboard and Surviving Seven Hours in the Gulf

After falling overboard in the middle of the night and swimming roughly 14 miles without a lifejacket, the captain was rescued by a group of anglers
father with FL captain after rescue

The captain (left) onboard with one of his rescuers. Steve Reigle via Facebook

A crew of junior hockey players and their fathers helped rescue a commercial fishing captain this weekend after he fell overboard into the Gulf of Mexico. The captain was stranded in the Gulf without a lifejacket for nearly seven hours, according to WMBB News

The unnamed captain was piloting the Fiona Leone roughly 12 miles off the coast of Panama City, Florida, when he fell overboard in the middle of the night. Around 4 a.m. on Sunday, July 3, another crew member alerted the USCG of the incident using the boat’s VHF radio. The crew member indicated that the captain had fallen overboard while the boat was on autopilot. 

“To survive in the water without a life jacket as the captain did is difficult for anyone to accomplish,” USCG captain Cassie Kitchen said in a press release

Luckily, a youth hockey team and their dads were heading out on the New Beginnings charter boat the following morning for a day of fishing. Around 7 a.m., they noticed the captain in the water waving his hands. At that point, the man claimed to have been overboard for roughly seven hours and said he swam for more than 14 miles.

“I saw a gentleman waving,” Ryan VanBuskirk told the local news. “I said, ‘That’s a human out there!’”

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The crew and passengers of the New Beginnings alerted the Coast Guard of their location after they brought the captain onboard. The group of young anglers told reporters that they were amazed by the calmness and physical condition of the captain. After swimming 14 miles on his own, he seemed to be in great shape and in even better spirits.

“He wanted to go fishing with us, but the Coast Guard had to pick him up,” passenger Austin Reigle said. 

The Panama City Coast Guard safely transferred the captain back to the Fiona Leone, and allowed the skipper to return his vessel to port. The captain was last reported to be in “good condition,” according to the USCG.