Couple Falls Overboard, Treads Water for 14 Hours

Sean McGovern, Melissa Morris ultimately rescued
By Shelley Hazen,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2014 11:56 AM CDT
Couple Falls Overboard, Treads Water for 14 Hours

On Saturday morning, four fishermen saw birds hovering over the waters seven miles off the Hallandale Beach shore in Broward County, Florida. Usually, their presence signals fish in the water. But not this time. Instead of fish, the men—two of them off-duty sheriff’s detectives and one a firefighter/paramedic—pulled two people, Sean McGovern, 49, and Mellisa Morris, 51, out of the water, reports the Sun Sentinel. The pair had fallen off their 30-foot Island Hopper in Key Largo Friday night around 6pm, and watched their boat, which was in high gear, drift out of reach. They weren’t wearing life jackets and so far, officials don’t know what caused the incident. Fisherman Steve Couch’s working theory? "They must've been having a good time."

CNN reports the couple was floating for 14 hours; the Sun Sentinel says 13. Either way, they had floated 10 nautical miles and had mild hypothermia, dehydration, and jellyfish stings by the time they were rescued in what a Coast Guard rep calls a "stroke of luck." The pair survived by staying close to shore, using the light as a guide; Morris kept hold of McGovern’s feet so she wouldn't lose him in the water, and had to shake him awake during the night, their rescuers say. McGovern and Morris were handed over to the Coast Guard and friends picked them up back on shore. As for their boat—it turned up on a Fort Lauderdale beach Saturday afternoon. (Read more rescue stories.)

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