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American tourists survive harrowing 14 hours adrift at sea

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 26th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A fishing trip turned into a nightmare, straight of the shark horror film "Open Water" for two American tourists boating off the coast of St. Lucia in the Caribbean. After their ship sank, brother and sister Dan and Kate Suski managed to stay afloat for 14 hours in ocean waters before they could reach shore.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - It all began four hours into their trip when the boat's electric system crackled and popped. Thirty-year-old Dan Suski, business owner and information technology expert from San Francisco, along with sister Kate Suski, a 39-year-old architect of Seattle had water rush into their boat's cabin. The seawater flooded the engine room, prompting the captain to radio for help as he yelled out their coordinates.

The waves kept pounding the boat they had chartered from the local company "Reel Irie" in the eastern Caribbean island. As more water flooded the boat, the captain threw life preservers to the Suskis.

The two jumped into the water with the captain and first mate. Less than five minutes later, the boat sank. The group was at least eight miles from shore, and waves more than twice their size tossed them.

"The captain was telling us to stay together, and that help was on its way and that we needed to wait," Kate Suski said. After an hour, but no one came.

"I was saying, 'Let's swim, let's swim. If they're coming, they will find us. We can't just stay here,'" she recalled.

The Suskis lost sight of the captain and first mate amid the swells. They also lost sight of land amid the rain. "We would just see swells and gray," Dan Suski said.

A plane and a helicopter appeared in the distance and hovered over the area, but no one spotted the siblings . and then the sun began to set.

"There's this very real understanding that the situation is dire," Kate Suski said. "You come face-to-face with understanding your own mortality ... We both processed the possible ways we might die. Would we drown? Be eaten by a shark?"

Swimming for 12 to 14 hours, talking as they pushed and shivered their way through the ocean, Dan Suski tried to ignore images of the movie "Open Water" that kept popping into his head. "Open Water" is about a scuba-diving couple left behind by their group and attacked by sharks.

Even when they saw land within 30 feet, they realized they couldn't get out of the water.

Swimming until they noticed a spit of sand nearby, they collapsed, barely able to walk. It was past midnight, and they didn't notice any homes in the area.

The two then hiked inland and lay together, pulling up grass and brush to cover themselves and stay warm.

As the sun came up, they began to hike through thick brush, picking up bitter mangoes along the way and stopping to eat green bananas.

The two then spotted a young farm worker walking with his white dog. He fed them crackers, gave them water and waited until police arrived, the Suskis said.

The captain and mate were rescued after spending nearly 23 hours in the water, noting that their relatives called and took care of them after the ordeal.

The brother and sister said they don't blame anyone for the shipwreck. "We are so grateful to be alive right now," Kate Suski said. "Nothing can sort of puncture that bubble."

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