CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The U.S. Coast Guard rescued two adults and two boys who were forced to float in the ocean miles from shore for 16 hours after their boat overturned during a fishing trip.
The four were rescued about 13 miles off the coast of Charleston after a night of clinging to life vests and a cooler. They were exhausted and dehydrated when they were found, Coast Guard officials say.
Brian Judy, age 39, Kenny Winningham, age 40, and the boys, 12 and 11, are reported to be in stable condition.
Three out of four of them were able to walk off the Coast Guard boat on their own.
Their families raced down the dock at the Charleston Coast Guard Station, calling it a miracle that everyone is okay.
"It is truly one of God's blessings," said Janice Strete, grandmother of 12-year-old Justin Stanzil.
"One of them is the father of one of the children and a friend of that father so they all knew each other," said Strete.
When the boat didn't return to the Mt. Pleasant boat landing at 5 p.m. on Sunday evening, their families knew something was wrong.
"Scared to death that something had happened to my grandson and his friends," said Strete.
Little did Strete know, by 4 p.m. on Sunday the four were stranded in the water.
Monday morning, a Coast Guard air crew found the 23-foot white Mako boat capsized 12 miles off the coast of the Isle of Palms at 6:30 a.m.
The four people on board were nowhere to be found.
"[It] was devastating to us that they found the boat capsized but we didn't give up hope," said Strete.
An hour and a half later, rescue crews spotted them waving in the water.
"I could tell when we pulled up on scene that there was definitely a sign of relief as we got there," said Coast Guard Petty Officer Agiza.
After 16 hours in the water, the four had floated a mile and a half from where the boat was found.
"They were all found together, they all had life jackets on and they were also clinging to one of their coolers that they had kept from their capsized vessel," said Justin Longval, officer in charge of Charleston Coast Guard station.
Strete says her grandson has grown up boating, so he knew what to do in case of an emergency.
"With that education it really is something that I think saved their life," said Officer Longval.
Everyone is thankful that this fishing trip turned rescue mission had a happy ending.
"It's definitely a relief for us as the boat crew, because so many cases don't turn out as well," said Officer Agiza.
The four were taken to MUSC to be checked out but are expected to be okay.
Watchstanders in the Coast Guard Sector Charleston command center say the boaters sent a text message mentioning their intended destination for an off-shore fishing trip, and didn't come back Sunday.
The Coast Guard says they didn't get a distress signal from the boat. There is no word on what caused it to overturn.