Shipwrecked boaters detail rescue from shark-infested waters

They tied two ice chests together creating a makeshift float as the boat sank.

ByABC News
October 11, 2022, 9:50 AM

Two men are sharing their story of survival after they said they were stranded at sea for 28 hours in Louisiana's shark-infested waters.

Phong Le was enjoying a day of fishing with friends Son Nguyen and Luan Nguyen on Saturday. They said they set their anchor higher than usual -- and then the boat started to take on water.

"We made a distress call on the VHF radio to the Coast Guard and let them know that we'd taken on water," Le said. "And not even seconds after that, the boat was nearly halfway in the water."

They said they tied two ice chests together creating a makeshift float as the boat sank, setting them adrift in the open water.

"That was critical in us surviving -- tying the ice chests together," Luan Nguyen said. "Happened to be that one of the ice chests actually had water and fruit in there."

The men said they spent the night in the sea, and when the sun rose, a new danger emerged.

PHOTO: Phong Le and Luan Nguyen were rescued after being stranded at sea with another friend for 28 hours over the weekend near Louisiana.
Phong Le and Luan Nguyen were rescued after being stranded at sea with another friend for 28 hours over the weekend near Louisiana.
U.S. Coast Guard

"That's when the shark bit the life vest in front of me," Luan Nguyen said. "I punched him in the face. And I think that's where I caught ... these injuries on my hand. ... I took my two thumbs and jabbed him in the eyes, and he took off."

Meanwhile, Le said he swam for over 5 miles to find help. What he ended up finding was cell reception.

With 2% phone battery left, he said he sent his location to his friend.

"I see him trying to reply to me. And the phone cut off -- I ran out of battery," he said.

Less than two hours later, the friends said they heard the sounds of the Coast Guard helicopter coming to their rescue.

For now, they're not in any rush to get back in the water.

Le said if he gets back on a boat, he'll be better prepared. But "right now,' he said, "it's not in the cards."

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