Subscribe to Breaking News emails

You have successfully subscribed to the Breaking News email.

Subscribe today to be the first to to know about breaking news and special reports.

Ex-Navy Pilot Treads Water for 20 Hours Off Florida Coast Before Rescue

by Elisha Fieldstadt /
Bill Durden was fishing in the ocean 18 miles offshore when he fell overboard and his boat motored away, leaving him without a life vest overnight. Durden thanks his Navy training for making it through the night before the Coast Guard was able to rescue him.U.S. Navy

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

A former Navy pilot who fell from his fishing boat spent 20 hours treading water off the coast of Florida before the Coast Guard rescued him Thursday.

William Durden, 64, was spotted Thursday morning by a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew about 18 miles off the coast of Aripeka, according to the Coast Guard. A video posted by the Coast Guard showed a diver plunge into the waters and lift Durden to safety.

Durden, who is from Reno, Nevada, but has a Florida vacation home, went boating Wednesday. When he didn't return that night, his wife reported him missing, according to NBC affiliate WFLA. His 22-foot boat was found near St. Martins Keys, about 60 miles north of Tampa, early Thursday, but Durden was still missing.

"When you watch your boat motor away you think well I’m just going to do it or I’m going to sit out here and die," he said. Durden chose to fight in the cold waters overnight, and when he saw the rescue helicopter, he started waving his hands furiously.

"They flew by, and I thought they didn’t see me and then a few hundred yards later, they dropped the flare and I was like, ‘Yes. I’m going to live through this thing,'" Durden said.

The 64-year-old credits his Navy training for his survival.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
MORE FROM news

Have feedback?

How likely are you to recommend nbcnews.com to a friend or colleague?

0 = Very unlikely
10 = Very likely
Please select answer

Is your feedback about:

Please select answer

Leave your email if you’d like us to respond. (Optional)

Please enter a valid email address

Thank you!

Your feedback has been sent out. Please enjoy more of our content.

We appreciate your help making nbcnews.com a better place.