Sean McGovern, 50, and Mellisa Morris, 52, were expecting a fun day in the sun last Friday while cruising in Key Largo on their 30-foot Island Hopper. It is not currently known how the couple fell off their boat, but McGovern and Morris spent 14 hours treading water after helplessly watching their vessel pull away. The two ended up drifting more than 10 miles over the course of their ordeal, and lacked any kind of flotation or signalling device.

“They were trying to signal people down with their T-shirt,” US Coast Guard spokesperson Mark Barney told CNN.

It was only by a chance encounter that the boaters were rescued. The couple was found splashing seven miles from Hallandale Beach by a group of four anglers, including two off-duty sheriff’s office detectives and one firefighter. McGovern had been using his shirt as a flag to signal any passing boaters and the anglers initially mistook it for the movements of fish. When the fishermen finally pulled the two exhausted swimmers aboard, they found the couple covered in jellyfish stings and suffering from hypothermia.

“[They were] pretty distraught, tired,” Keith Silvis, one of the rescuers, told WSVN. “You could tell they had been in the water for a long time.”

Morris had been in the water for so long that the anglers said she was unable to move once on the boat. The anglers agreed that the unfortunate boaters probably would not have lasted much longer in the water.

“Another 30 minutes to an hour,” estimated Josh Webb, another rescuer. “It probably wouldn’t have the same outcome as it did today because they were in pretty bad shape. They were both cramping pretty bad, they were both very dehydrated, very tired.”

The couple was given over to the Coast Guard station at Fort Lauderdale where they were eventually picked up by friends. Both McGovern and Morris were found to be in stable condition and did not require an immediate visit to the hospital. Their missing boat was eventually recovered on a Fort Lauderdale beach as well.

You can watch an interview with the rescuers below:

Image from 29cm on the flickr Creative Commons

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2 thoughts on “Boaters Rescued by Florida Anglers after Treading Water for 14 Hours

  1. ALWAYS WEAR A PFD (PERSONAL FLOATATION DEVICE) WITH A LIGHT AND WHISTLE WHILE ON DECK IN A SMALL CRAFT FOR BAD WEATHER/COLD WATER(LESS THAN 55 DEG F) ADD A “GUMBY SUIT” AT THE VERY LEAST LET A RESPONSIBLE PERSON KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING WHEN YOU ARE DEPARTING WHEN YOU ARE DUE AT YOUR DESTINATION THE NAME AND DESCRIPTION OF YOUR BOAT AND THE PEOPLE WITH YOU VERY BASIC MUST DOS IF YOU INTEND TO PRACTICE ANY SORT OF BOATING SAFELY

  2. Just WEAR IT!
    I almost died in a boating accident as a youngster when I had a capsize on the Connecticut River. My sailboat was heading out to the sound. The saving item was the THROW CUSHION (TYPE 4 PFD) that day that came up off the boat since I did as the US Coast Guard recommended and had it READILY ACCESSIBLE.
    To this day I always check vessels for the location of their Throwable device. It it’s buried in the hold or in a seat it will not do you any good when it sinks with the boat.
    That said if you chose not to WEAR IT! considering the automatic and manual inflatable vest or belt pack options that are comfortable and always at the ready, you have only yourself to blame for not valueing your life enough.

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