Dateline   |  April 14, 2014

Capsized, part 5

On April 6, 2013, a U.S. Coast Guard plane spotted the capsized rowboat 350 miles off of Puerto Rico. The news they had was troubling for the families: only two rowers were confirmed in the lifeboat.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> coast guard plane spotted the capsized rowboat the "james robert hanssen " 350 miles off puerto rico . two survivors were confirmed in a life raft. but there had been four rowers aboard. back home their families were frantic, awaiting word of their loved ones ' fate. mission coordinator greg spooner was beside himself. all four were his friends. you get the word that there are three beacons, but that's all you know. right?

>> yeah.

>> reporter: and then you find out they only see two people in the life raft.

>> mm-hmm.

>> reporter: so maybe two people are dead. but you can't know. is that fair?

>> 100%.

>> reporter: it had been more than five hours since the crew's emergency beacons first went off, about a half hour since the capsized craft was located, and only two survivors confirmed. and then the news got worse. the coast guard called to say the plane had dropped a barrel containing emergency supplies and a radio. but whoever was in the life raft didn't open it. didn't open it.

>> didn't open it. and when i got that phone call from officer harper telling me that that happened, that's when it really, really hit me that jordan was gone. everybody on that boat, you know, in any situation of duress, he was going to have the wherewithal to open that barrel no matter what.

>> reporter: he was the guy who'd do that.

>> he was going to do it.

>> reporter: jordan hanssen, the captain, greg 's best friend , the man he'd rode the ocean with himself, greg tried to hold himself together when he called the families with this latest bit of news.

>> okay, someone's dead or something really terrible has happened.

>> reporter: rebecca, adam kreek 's wife, was already reeling, and this sent her over the edge .

>> because the fact that the guys wouldn't open a box drop made me think, okay, someone's dying, someone's leg is severed and there's more important things to do than to spend five seconds opening a u.s. coast guard box with a radio in it.

>> reporter: without a radio, there was no way to communicate with whoever was in that life raft. but then the coast guard plane was running low on fuel and had to return to florida. so another flight with another radio was dispatched which, of course, would take more hours to get back to the crew. so that period of time is another one where you're kind of --

>> waiting. yeah. and then just assuming the worst.

>> reporter: rebecca's thoughts turned to that letter she'd asked adam to write to jefferson jefferson .

>> hey, jefferson . it's your dad here.

>> reporter: he wrote a letter. tell me about the letter.

>> i thought, i want adam to explain this, his dee situation and why he's doing it, to the best of your ability as a, you know, 32-year-old can you share with jefferson when he's older, you know, your thoughts on life and anything that you'd want to tell him.

>> reporter: having won an olympic gold medal , adam was well-known in canada. a lot of my adult life has been recorded in the media, he wrote to jefferson . what you won't get from the image portrayed is my raw self. he tells jefferson to avoid the seven deadly sins and lave good life.

>> i didn't ask him to write this thinking he's going to die, i want this letter. i thought what a great thing to have in the future regardless, and it was of some comfort for me to have that.

>> reporter: patrick's mother, dia diana, could find no comfort. all she could do was pray her son was one of the survivors.

>> oh, you're being so selfish to think only about your son. really? who is anybody else thinking about? they were thinking about their loved one out there and just praying that it wasn't their loved one that was dead.

>> reporter: and just then she got a text from greg .

>> and i looked at the text message just thinking he wouldn't text me that patrick's dead. he really wouldn't do that, would he?

>> reporter: turns out there was a reason for that text. about ten minutes earlier that second barrel containing a radio had been dropped to the survives by a coast guard plane. an official called greg immediately.

>> second plane dropped the barrel. it was retrieved.

>> reporter: it was retrieved. and soon the families would learn who