Tourists Forced to Swim in Ocean for 14 Hours After Fishing Boat Sinks

For those of us with a reasonable fear of the ocean, this is a worst case scenario: Last week, Dan Suski, 30, and his sister Kate Suski, 39, chartered a fishing boat in St. Lucia. Things were going fine, despite the rough seas, and the siblings even managed to hook a 200-pound marlin. They were battling the giant fish when water rushed onto the boat and flooded its engine room. As the captain radioed for help, another surge of water swamped the boat. At that point, the captain tossed the Suskis life jackets and ordered them into the ocean.

"He said, 'Jump out! Jump out!'" Kate Suski recalled in a telephone interview Thursday with The Associated Press.

The captain and the first mate soon joined them and, five minutes later, the boat sank, leaving the group stranded at least eight miles from shore. The group stayed put for the first hour, awaiting rescue. No one came. The group started to swim, but the rough waves caused the Suskis to became separated from the captain and first mate. "We would just see swells and gray," Dan Suski said.

Hours went by. A helicopter and search plane arrived but failed to notice the two siblings. They continued swimming. Eventually, the sun went down.

"There's this very real understanding that the situation is dire," Kate Suski said. "You come face-to-face with understanding your own mortality ... We both processed the possible ways we might die. Would we drown? Be eaten by a shark?"

Neither could stop thinking about sharks. "I thought I was going to vomit I was so scared," Kate said.

Finally, after 14 hours, they came within 30 feet of land only to discover the coast was covered with cliffs, making it impossible to climb from the ocean. “We knew we would get crushed,” Kate said.

They kept swimming, finally finding a small stretch of sand. Once ashore, they collapsed before again going into survival mode to avoid hypothermia. They hiked into the island and huddled together, covering themselves in grass and brush to stay warm. They spent the night like that, only moving when the sun rose. It took three hours before they found a farmer, who called police and gave them water and crackers.

They would later find out that the captain and first mate had been rescued after 23 hours in the ocean.

Despite dehydration, severe tendonitis and cuts over their feet and back, the couple didn't blame anyone for the ordeal.

"We are so grateful to be alive right now," Kate Suski said. "Nothing can sort of puncture that bubble."

[Associated Press/Image via AP]