Fisherman Thrown Overboard Treads Water for 4 Hours Off New Jersey

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By Jamieson Lesko, Alexander Smith and Christopher Nelson

A 45-year-old fisherman was forced to tread water for four hours after he went overboard during a thunderstorm off New Jersey's coast, officials said.

Damian Sexton was thrown from his 39-foot fishing vessel during bad weather 44 miles out to sea. He said the only thing that kept him alive were thoughts of his family as he struggled in the "huge" waves.

"I just couldn't picture the next day somebody coming to tell them I'm not going to be home anymore because I knew it would ruin their lives," he told NBC 10 Philadelphia. "And I love them too much for that."

The U.S. Coast Guard said its personnel battled "intense thunderstorms and darkness" to reach Sexton during Sunday night's incident.

Dramatic footage shows Sexton being winched aboard a Coast Guard helicopter off Cape May before being flown to hospital.

His friend managed to remain on the vessel and made a distress call after Sexton fell overboard at around 10 p.m. But because Sexton's companion had not been shown how to operate the boat he was not able to stop, meaning Sexton was stranded, NBC 10 Philadelphia reported.

The Coast Guard launched a C-130 Hercules airplane, an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and several boat crews. Sexton was finally spotted by a cargo ship, the Maersk Westport, which was able to throw him a life preserver.

The Maersk's crew then instructed Sexton's friend to steer the boat back towards the man in the water. Sexton was then hauled aboard before being picked up by the helicopter.