updated 11/1/2008 10:49:29 PM ET 2008-11-02T02:49:29

A 48-year-old New Yorker who survived almost two days bobbing in the choppy waters of a vast South American river said she was kept alive by a plastic bucket and the desire to see her daughter again.

Sherry Haynes, a resident of Brooklyn who was born in Guyana, was riding across Guyana's Corentyne River in a water taxi on Oct. 24 when the speedboat apparently snagged on a fishing net and capsized.

Only Haynes and a crewmember survived, while six died, including her sister and nephew.

"My husband told me he would have given up after the first night, but I am not like that," she told The Associated Press on Saturday. "At nights I drifted to Suriname, and in the day to Guyana, and then back again. The tides were very strong."

She said prayer — and the desire to see her 19-year-old daughter again — kept her going.

Haynes realized people were trying to rescue her when she saw police boats in the river.

"But none came close to me," she said. "I saw them in the distance."

As she waited to be rescued, friends and relatives began to assemble fuel, firewood and white linen to eventually cremate her body.

Nearly 36 hours after she went overboard, Haynes hit a sandbank. A cattle herder saw the dehydrated woman, rescued her, fed her and called authorities.

Haynes, a Guyana native who works at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, had taken time off to scatter her brother's ashes along Guyana's rivers as he requested.

During the visit, she boarded a small speedboat for what was supposed to be a 20-minute trip on the river that separates Guyana and Suriname.

Those killed when the boat capsized included Haynes' sister, Sheila Gonsalves, a retired public-education manager; her nephew Henry Gonsalves, who worked as an intensive-care unit technician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital; and a friend traveling with Haynes.

"I never in my wildest dreams anticipated that this was what I was coming for, for all these funerals," Haynes said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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