Ex-Navy Pilot Treads Water for 20 Hours and Survives

By MarEx 2016-06-03 21:29:32

An ex-Navy pilot spent 20 hours treading water off Florida without a life jacket after he fell from his fishing boat – and survived.

61-year-old William Durden of Reno, Nevada went out in his boat on Wednesday but did not return on schedule. His wife reported him as missing to authorities after he was gone for twelve hours; SAR assets found his boat at St. Martins Keys – without him in it, and roughly two dozen nm to the north of his position.

Durden said that he left the boat in gear and went back for a fishing pole; he ended up over the side and the boat continued away. Through luck and perseverance, Durden stayed afloat and was spotted by a USCG search and rescue helicopter crew on Thursday, almost a full day after he went into the water. He said that his Navy survival training saved him. 

"When you watch your boat motor away you think well I'm just going to do it or I'm going to sit out here and die," he told local media. The night was the hardest part, he said: he could feel cold starting to set in. Two hours after daybreak, the Coast Guard crew spotted him. 

"I looked a little bit closer and it had two arms and it was waving at me, my adrenaline spiked," said USCG Petty Officer Jacob Latour. "It's very rare that we find somebody, a single person in the water especially after 20 hours with no life jacket and it is very exciting that we found somebody," he added.

Durden expects to return to fishing, "but not by myself," he said.