A Florida resident who became stranded at sea after his scuba diving equipment malfunctioned was rescued after spending more than seven hours in the Gulf of Mexico trying to swim back to shore.
Mike Ozburn, 27, left the Southwind Marina in Pensacola Sunday to continue his newfound passion of scuba diving, which he picked up in November, he told ABC Pensacola affiliate WEAR.
Ozburn experienced a problem with his equipment while he and his buddy were in the Gulf of Mexico about 16 miles off the coast, and when he surfaced, he saw realized he was 150 yards from the boat.
He tried to swim back to it, but the strong current kept pushing him further and further back, he said.
Ozburn then tried several ways to draw attention to himself, including inflating his safety buoy, blowing his whistle and waving his arms, to no avail. Although the buoy was neon green, the way the water and sunlight fell on it caused it to appear white, which blended in with the sea foam forming over the three-foot waves.
"I was like, 'Oh man, this is not good,'" he said.
After about five to 10 minutes, he lost sight of the boat, he told the Pensacola News Journal reported.
Ozburn became hopeful after about two and a half hours when he saw a helicopter flying past him, but the search-and-rescue crew couldn't spot him.
"I thought, 'This is it. I'm going to get rescued,'" he said.
When that didn't happen, Ozburn faced his compass south and "kicked for shore," he said. Five hours in, despite being plagued with cramps and numb toes, he continued pushing himself.
"I wanted to survive," he said.
Then, after seven hours, a dive boat finally saw him in the water. A fellow diver called out to him, asking "Hey, you need a ride?" Ozburn said.
The boat drove past just before sunset, according to the News Journal.
Ozburn recalled hugging the diver after he jumped in the water.
"Getting on that boat was the best feeling ever," he said. "I have a new lease on live now."
Ozburn credits his diving instructor for teaching him the skills he needed to survive on the water.
"I'm just glad I'm alive," he said. "I really am."
Ozburn plans to continue diving, he said.