A 61-year-old man treaded water for nearly 20 hours in the Gulf of Mexico before a U.S. Coast Guard crew rescued him 15 nautical miles southeast of Aripeka, Florida, on Thursday.
William Durden, a former Navy pilot who lives in Reno, Nevada, and has a summer home in Homosassa, Florida, left home on his 22-foot boat Wednesday morning. His wife later reported him missing at 9:20 p.m. after he did not return, authorities told Fox 13 News
Durden told Bay News 9 that he fell overboard
while fishing in the Homosassa River and was forced to tread water for nearly 20 hours.
"I went through different phases, first couple hours, I'll find some way to wave down and get on somebody's boat, then sundown comes and oh well, I'm gonna have to plan for nighttime now," Durden told Bay News 9. "I was just praying that no big shark would come out and decide to have me for dinner."
Fox 13 wrote that a crew with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission discovered Durden's deserted boat in the mangroves close to St. Martins Keys around 1 a.m. Thursday.
After a continued search, a helicopter with the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station in Clearwater spotted Durden without a life jacket in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The Coast Guard dispatched a rescue swimmer to retrieve Durden, plucking him from the water around 10:40 a.m. Thursday.
"Four or five o'clock in the morning, it started getting a little bit chilly, mostly the water temperature wasn't too bad but I started shaking, hypothermic," Durden told Bay News 9. "I felt fish hitting my legs and stuff."
Durden was checked out at the Coast Guard's Air Station in Clearwater before he was released, the Times noted.
"It's very rare that we find somebody, a single person in the water, especially after 20 hours with no life jacket," Coast Guard Petty Officer Jacob Latour told Bay News 9. "And it is very exciting that we found somebody."
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