Thu, Sep 13, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Fisherman survives day at sea adrift in fish bin

AP, SITKA, Alaska

A fisherman spent a night adrift in a 1m by 1m plastic fish bin after his boat was hit by big waves and overturned off the coast of Alaska.

A US Coast Guard helicopter hoisted Ryan Harris, 19, of Sitka, from his plastic “lifeboat” on Saturday, more than 24 hours after the boat sank on Friday, the Daily Sitka Sentinel reported on Monday.

Harris told the newspaper he gave himself pep talks and sang Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Row, Row, Row Your Boat to keep his spirits up.

His fellow crewmember managed to get into a survival suit and washed ashore on a beach after his own night afloat. Two hours before Harris’ rescue, crewmate Stonie “Mac” Huffman was rescued from a beach.

“It’s truly a miracle they survived,” said Sitka Mountain rescue director Don Kluting, who helped in the search.

“I never thought I was going to die, but I was worried about Mac,” Harris told the newspaper on Monday. “I’m glad to be here.”

The two managed to grab some empty fish totes that had washed loose. Huffman stabilized one while Harris climbed inside. The men were not able to get Huffman into a bin, but he took a plastic bin lid for flotation. Waves as high as 2.4m soon separated the men.

The coast guard said that Huffman told them the lid drifted away during the two hours that he struggled to get into the survival suit.

At one point, Harris said, his bin dumped him and he struck his head, but he was able to get in and keep it balanced for the remainder of the 26 hours until his rescue.

The toughest part was not knowing the fate of his friend, Harris said.

“I gave myself a pep talk,” he said.

He kept repeating for four hours: “I’m Ryan Hunter Harris and I’m not going to die here.”

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