Boater talks about dramatic rescue off Hernando Beach

5:37 PM, May 26, 2012   |    comments
Jeff Hardy and his friends say they feel lucky to be alive after capsizing about 20 miles off of Hernando Beach.
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HERNANDO CO., Fla. -- Imagine that you have five seconds to tell someone that you're clinging to the hull of a boat in the dark about 20 miles offshore from Hernando Beach. Jeff Hardy and his friends say they feel lucky to even be alive to talk about the experience.

"If you could have measured adrenaline, you could probably light up Tampa Bay," he says. "Feels good. I'm glad we're here. I'm glad everybody's in here."

Hardy and his three friends were on a long-awaited fishing trip near the Ben Dickinson Reef area. But, in the dark, unexpected storm conditions began surrounding them.

"The wind started picking up and it got real strong, and then the waves started picking up big time and they started coming over the bow of the boat," Hardy says. "We decided to pull up anchor and head in."

But they couldn't get the anchor dislodged. Hardy says they moved about another 20 yards and then flipped. Luckily, he kept his phone in his pocket, and despite being submerged, it worked. He tried calling 911, but the call wouldn't connect. After a few calls to his wife, he heard it ring.

"It disconnected right at the end of the conversation. It was only about a five second conversation," Hardy says. "I was hoping she got the part that we were capsized and going out."

She did, and shortly after, the Coast Guard and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission responded.

"It could have been much, much worse. I'm just so happy that our officer was able to get there," FWC Officer Robert Scholl says. "And he ran pretty much in the middle of the night by himself to get out there."

None of the boaters suffered injuries, though they do urge other boaters to wear their life jackets or keep them within arm's reach.

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