Stranded boater reunites with rescuers
MIAMI (WSVN) -- A South Florida fisherman has been reunited with the rescuers who saved his life.
George Verdencia had the chance Thursday to thank the Coast Guard crew who pulled him to safety on Key Biscayne. "I appreciate the work that they put in, that they were out there, and that they saved me," Verdencia said.
Verdencia was found clinging to the lid of a cooler after his boat capsized Monday. "Once they got to me, I couldn't swim anymore. If the current would have gotten me again, I would have been out there again," he said.
His brother was able to swim to shore, but Verdencia was stranded and nearly drowned after treading water for seven hours. "He probably weighs about 220 pounds, and unfortunately he was unable to get to his life jacket when the vessel capsized," U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Joseph Abeyta. "This was all he had to hang on to, and his brother had the other half of the cooler."
Verdencia's girlfriend said the pair had gone out on the water around 10 p.m. Sunday and were supposed to return at about 2 a.m. Monday. "I called at 3 and the phone rang, but it went to voice mail, so I figured they were just still out there," said Vanessa Florido, "and, by 6, it was just not working, it was going straight to voice mail. That's when I started freaking out."
By that time, Verdencia and his brother had been clinging to the cooler for hours after their 17-foot boat had flipped. His brother swam to shore at Bill Baggs State Park at sunrise to call for help. Before then, no one knew the pair was stranded. "I really relied on my phone, but when it got wet, that was the end of that," said Verdancia.
Verdancia is grateful to his rescuers and as a parting gift, the crew gave him back the cooler lid that kept him afloat until they arrived.
The Coast Guard advises that whenever you get on to a boat, make sure you have your life vest on at all times.
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