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A St. Augustine boater joyfully reunited with rescue crews who pulled him from his submerged boat in August. He was missing for more than 30 hours.
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — A St. Augustine boater joyfully reunited with rescue crews who saved his life. On Thursday, 25-year-old Charles Gregory got to thank those who pulled him from his submerged boat last month 12 miles off the coast of St. Augustine.
“You know the numbers and you hear the numbers of all the people that were involved but to see it in person, it’s pretty cool,” boater Charles Gregory said.
Crews from the U.S. Coast Guard, St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office and Fire Rescue, St. Augustine Police and Fire Rescue and Florida Fish and Wildlife helped in the search.
“I can’t be more thankful for all the people that were involved in, especially the man up top, you know, always had to give things there,” Gregory said.
On August 3rd, Gregory says he went out on his Jon boat to his normal fishing spot in the salt run area of St. Augustine but says he got pushed out by the tide.
“I couldn’t slow down fast enough before I was in the swells… I lose my life jacket, my flares, my radios, my gun bill, everything that I have on me out there, I lost everything,” Gregory said.
He says he didn’t have much hope when he couldn’t see land.
“It’s a very odd feeling knowing that you’re going to die before you have any of the symptoms. Like I’m still fine, I’m not like super dehydrated yet. I was like, it’s just a matter of time. I don’t know when but eventually,” Gregory explained.
Gregory was out on the water for about 30 hours. Search and Rescue Coordinator Nick Barrow says Gregory was spotted by the Coast Guard after about 17 hours of searching.
“He was on his eight foot boat submerged while miles off shore, which is certainly not where he intended to be. I think it was super critical that our air crew was able to spot him when when they did,” Coast Guard Search and Rescue Coordinator Nick Barrow said.
Gregory says seeing the plane was the craziest moment of his life. He was reunited with his family and taken to the hospital dehydrated, with nerve damage in his legs and sun poisoning.
“Those first responders, they’re just truly heroic people. They leave their families behind, to go out and help somebody else’s family. They not only saved my baby’s life, but our entire family,” Gregory’s mom Debra Gregory said.
Gregory and his family presented plaques to all rescue crews Thursday as a thank you for their help in finding Gregory.
Gregory’s mom Debra Gregory says he was prepared to be out on the water alone, and says she believes his familiarity with the ocean helped him stay calm.
“He always practices treading without the use of his hand. He’s always been staying fit push ups so I knew him being so physically fit and being so familiar with the ocean, because there were marine life that came around his boat, he did not panic,” Gregory said.
Gregory has made a full recovery and is grateful to be alive and safe.
“I’ve been back surfing, I’m back fishing, doing my paddle boarding when I can. I just can’t hate the water, I’ve grown up in it my whole life,” Gregory said.
Barrow says if you find yourself on the water and in distress:
“Make it hard to drown and easy to be found. It’s really hard to find small boats and people on the water especially if not wearing life jackets or don’t have any sort of reflective equipment or distress signaling devices. As many measures as somebody can take to make it easy to communicate a distress to us and as easy as possible for us to be able to find you when we’re out looking for you. I think is is a good message,” Barrow explained.