A Long Island lobster fisherman was rescued Wednesday after spending 12 hours at sea using only his rubber boots to keep him afloat.
John Aldridge, Jr., 43, fell overboard the Anna Mary at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday. The other fishermen on board noticed he was missing in the morning. They reported him missing and the Coast Guard was dispatched, finally spotting him seven hours later 43 miles south of Montauk.
“Initially, we couldn’t believe what we saw,” said Lt. Michael Deal, a helicopter pilot for the U.S. Coast Guard said. “It felt we had struck gold or won the lottery. To actually find him and the condition he was, we were elated as he was. It was a phenomenal feeling.”
Deal told ABC News the helicopter had been searching for seven hours and was about to go back for the day when they extended the search for 30 more minutes. Video released by the Coast Guard showed the moment Aldridge was found in the water. A rescue swimmer was deployed to pull him to safety.
“We handed him a couple of bottles of water, got him some blankets, he was pretty grateful for us,” Deal said. “He was grateful for everybody’s efforts. He told us he had been praying for this moment since he entered the water.”
Aldridge was in good condition, but suffered hypothermia and dehydration. More than 780 square miles had been searched by air and water when he was rescued.
Deal told ABC News the situation could have been a lot worse.
“To be frank about it, a lot of them don’t come out with the outcome that happened yesterday. Eight months out of the year, the water isn’t conducive for survival for 30 minutes, let alone 12 hours. It’s not very standard someone floats for 12 hours in the Atlantic ocean,” Deal said. “Thank God it was the middle of summer. It was a benefit in allowing him to continue to stay alive.”
Aldridge’s father, John Aldridge Sr. told New York ABC News affiliate WABC that he didn’t expect his son would be able to stay afloat all that time.
“It was just meant to be, that it wasn’t his time,” Aldridge, Sr. said, “It’s just such a feeling to have him back. It’s just beyond words.”
Aldridge was flown to Cape Cod, Mass., where the rescue team’s helicopter was stationed. He is headed back to his home in Long Island today.