A lobsterman who fell off his boat on Wednesday says he was able to use his rubber boots to stay afloat until the Coast Guard finally spotted him.
45-year old John Aldridge says it was a very simple accident that led to his fall and subsequent 12-hour ordeal: a broken cooler.
"The handle broke off and I fell off the back of the boat. Just like that. I just watched the boat float away," he said.
Aldridge, a fisherman out of Montauk with 19 years experience, said his survival instincts kicked in as soon as he was in the water, which was--luckily for him--warm. After he noticed his boots were trying to bob above the surface of the water, he removed them, filled them with air, and stuck them under his arms like flotation devices. After that, all he had to do was float...and wait.
For hours, Aldridge conserved his energy and let the water take him where it would. After a while, he noticed helicopters and other boats that were surely looking for him, but he was just a small speck in the huge Atlantic. Finally, around midafternoon on Wednesday, a Coast Guard helicopter spotted him and sent a rescuer down to pluck him out of the water. He was taken to the hospital, where doctors said he suffered from dehydration, exposure, and hypothermia. All in all, he was lucky.
"I just put my head to thinking survival mode and I wasn't dying that way. Dying wasn't an option," he said.
Image: U.S. Coast Guard