OFF SANIBEL COAST, Fla. (NBC/WBBH) — A Florida family is OK after being tossed into the Gulf of Mexico during a children’s fishing tournament off Sanibel over the weekend. Heart-stopping video shows a man clinging to a child in the water, while another holds two more children on their overturned boat. A survivor explained how their weekend fishing trip turned into a horrifying rescue, including three young children stranded in the choppy waters of the Gulf for hours. NBC2 got the recording of the 911 calls.
“Please, please! Our boat flipped off of Sanibel. My husband just called me from somebody else’s phone. I don’t know where — some place off of Sanibel. Our boat capsized, and there’s three small kids on board,” said a 911 caller.
Three small kids — no older than 5 years old — and four adults were on the boat.
“Stay calm, stay calm, stay calm. Stay with the capsized vessel,” said Carlos Cavenago, who remembers what he was thinking when the boat he was on capsized.
Cavenago was on the boat when it started to capsize. He said there was some kind of mechanical issue.
“Here’s the stern, and here’s the bow,” said Cavenago, using a pen to explain. “It went down, down, down, and then flipped.”
This uncle’s only concern was the three young children on board. Two of them were his nephews.
“We grabbed the kids. The boat was going down very fast, and we jumped down in the water and treaded water for a while before we were able to get a phone call out. Seemed like forever to get a phone call out,” said Cavenago.
Cavenago said he held on to his nephew and battled the choppy waters for almost two hours while the other two kids climbed on top of the capsized boat and waited to be rescued.
“We kept them calm by telling them it was just like being in the pool, just there’s the waves. We would tell them about the waves,” said Cavenago. “They had the life preservers on — first and foremost — and we held onto them for dear life.”
Sanibel Fire Department rescued the stranded boaters. Everyone onboard was OK. The exact reason why the boat capsized is unclear, but the Coast Guard says life jackets likely saved everyone’s life in the accident. In Florida, children under the age of 6 must wear a life vest while boating.