For three friends, the perfect day of boating on the waters near Louisiana soon turned into a disaster. As their boat sank they quickly were left stranded with one makeshift floater and several yards of shark and jellyfish-infested waters.
Over the Gulf of Mexico U.S. Coast Guard helicopters could not make out any semblance of human life in the wide 1,250 miles worth of choppy waters. Already recognizing that the mission of finding three men hundreds of yards away from the shore with no signal was near impossible, Coast Guard Lt., Katy Caraway, expressed his disbelief when they were found.
Luan Nguyen, Phong Le, and Son Nguyen set out for a day of fishing on October 8, 2022, when the waves worsened and the boaters realized their predicament. According to the men, the only reason they managed to survive was thanks to Le’s bandana.
In an interview with “Good Morning America,” the men explained they had two minutes before they were left without a boat when they started taking on water. Combined with life vests and a crudely tied-together cooler with Le’s bandana to hold onto, they huddled together and waited for help to come.
Despite only left adrift for one day, the elements were against them once night fell. After exhausting themselves trying to push their raft towards a nearby oil rig sharks had already made their presence known. Shortly leading to a brush with danger as a shark neared their float. Luan was left with a few bites before he was lucky enough to attack its eyes and push it away.
Constantly focusing on staying warm and alive, jellyfish the width of a grown man always surrounded them. “Every 15 to 20 minutes, you were constantly being stung by jellyfish,” Le told NBC.
As the men clung together for warmth as the sun set, the wife of one of the friends reported the men missing. And with no information on where the men departed with their boat, whether they were still adrift on their boat or left without one the odds of finding them in time were “extremely low.”
By Sunday morning Le took his chances swimming away from the group to try and get a cellphone signal. And despite the odds, in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico his phone with only two percent of battery left received a signal strong enough for him to send his location to a friend.
“Le, he was the first survivor that we picked up and he was actually the one who got separated from the rest of his group because he had tried swimming to a shrimp boat to call for help,” Caraway told CNN.
He was only a mile away from his friends, who encountered a dangerous situation in the few minutes that Le left.
When the other two were found Nguyen was covered in cuts and without half on his life vest. A four-foot black-tip shark returned to the draft, as the men waited for help, intent on separating Nguyen from the raft as it already succeeded in tearing his lifevest in two.
Dehydrated, sunburned, and suffering from hypothermia both the rescuers and the three men could barely believe they made it out still alive.
“I just remember him picking me up, pulling me out of the water, was like ‘wow, I made it,’” Nguyen told “Today” with tears in his eyes.
Written by Brielle R. Buford
CNN: Shark attacks, jellyfish stings and 28 hours floating at sea: This is how three boaters survived
Washington Post: Coast Guard saves stranded boaters from sharks, with help from Apple Maps
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Jeff Millers‘ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of David Axe‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License