Defying fate and an end that could have been as tragic as that of Titanic passengers, Ryan Harris of Alaska survived icy waters inside a small plastic fish crate for more than 24 hours before he was rescued.
Harris, 19, of Sitka, Alaska and his fishing buddy, 40-year-old Stonie “Mac” Huffman were fishing for salmon two miles off Cape Edgecumbe on Friday. Their 28-foot aluminum boat experienced hydraulic failure, which the men repaired, but they decided to head back to shore anyway.
On the way, the waters became choppy and an eight-foot wave crashed into the boat, tipping it on its side. There were no lifeboats, personal flotation devices nor radios on board. All the men had were two survival suits, a type of waterproof dry suit that protects a wearer from hypothermia in cold water.
Huffman was able to shimmy into a suit after two hours of effort as he held onto a plastic lid. Harris climbed into a four-by-four-foot plastic fish crate, but soon the two were separated by eight-foot tall waves.
The U.S. Coast Guard was notified by relatives of the pair after they did not return to dock that night. Four boats and four helicopters searched throughout the early morning and next day, according to the Daily Sitka Sentinel.
Huffman was found by rescuers along a beach approximately 25 northwest of Sitka. He pointed rescuers in the direction of Harrism who was still in his crate afloat at sea. When rescuers located Harris, he told them he never thought he was going to die, but he did worry about his friend. He had kept repeating the phrase, “I’m Ryan Hunter Harris and I’m not going to die here.” Also, to keep his spirits high, he sang Christmas carols like “Rudolf, the Red-nosed Reindeer” and other songs like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” through the sleepless night.
Other than minor injuries like a cut above Harris’s eye and blistered hands, the men survived unscathed.