A New York lobsterman who fell off his boat and was missing for nearly 12 hours was rescued by the Coast Guard about 40 miles from the vessel, floating in the ocean using his rubber boots as a raft.
Jonathan Aldridge was last seen Tuesday night on the 44-foot lobster vessel Anna Mary. Rescuers began searching for him when a colleague sounded the alarm Wednesday morning, officials said.
Aldridge said he was moving a cooler when the handle broke off and he "fell off the back of the boat, just like that."
Coast Guard crews from across New England coordinated to search more than 780 square miles of ocean.
Meanwhile, Aldridge stayed afloat by tucking his arms over his upside-down rubber boots. He saw dolphins starting to swim past, a sign of hope.
"I was like, 'There is no way I'm dying this way. This is how I gotta go? No way,'" said Aldridge.
A helicopter crew spotted Aldridge in the choppy ocean waves about 43 miles south of Montauk -- at first just a flash of white floating in the water, briefly disappearing before his motionless body returned to view, video shows.
Aldridge was plucked from the ocean around 3 p.m. in a rescue caught on video by the Coast Guard. He was released from the hospital Thursday with a sunburn, a sore throat and pain under his arms from clutching his boots for so long.
After a reunion with his family at home, Aldridge described his emotions upon realizing he had been found.
"When I knew that they saw me it was like, it was the best feeling in the world," he said. "I was craving a cheeseburger for some reason, I don't know why."
His father, John Aldridge Sr., said when the family got the call that he was alive, "we just fell apart, the whole house. There was 40 or 50 people here, it was just amazing."
His dad isn't surprised his son held on that long.
"He is that type of person," he said.
First published July 25 2013, 6:45 PM