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AMAZING SURVIVAL STORY: Fisherman stay afloat in shark-infested water floating on rubber boots

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

You should always wear your rubber boots when fishing - it could save your life. Montauk lobsterman John Aldridge was adrift at sea in shark-infested waters for more than 12 hours - he was kept afloat by his rubber boots, which he used as flotation devices. He's since been rescued.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) -  Aldridge fell into the shark-infested water of Long Island while his crewmates were asleep. The 45-year-old Aldridge was discovered 43 miles south of Montauk after officials say he fell off his lobster vessel.

"It was pretty miraculous that we found him because this is rare," Petty Officer Erik Swanson with the New York Coast Guard says. A video taken by Air Station Cape Cod showed Aldridge being hoisted up from the water wearing nothing but a pair of shorts, T-shirt and possibly a pair of white socks.

Found under his arms are the boots he told reporters kept him alive, even while at one point claiming to have seen sharks circling below him.

Swanson said Aldridge's use of his boots as a floatation device was something he had heard of, but could not confirm.

After an eight-hour search he was located alive by an Air Station Cape Cod MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew.

"He was fully responsive, he was just a little cold being in the water," Swanson said of the fisherman's immediate condition.

Back on land, Aldridge's family, which included a sister, erupted in cheers to hear the news.

"It was really, really nice when the chief was about to sit down with them and say that we found him. It was special," Swanson said.

Cathy Patterson, Aldridge's sister expressed her overwhelming thanks for everyone who never quit looking in a statement later released by the Coast Guard.

"I'd like to thank all the agencies, fisherman and friends for their efforts to find my brother," she said.

Treated for dehydration, exposure and hypothermia Aldridge was taken to Falmouth Hospital before his release.

Swanson and the rest of the coast guard credit the combined effort of outside rescuers, largely including the local fishing community, for assisting their search.

"The coordination between the vessels and the Coast Guard allowed them to cover an area of 660 square miles, approximately the size of 378,000 American football fields," the coast guard said in a statement.

"The search and rescue coordination between the Coast Guard, its partner agencies and fishermen was exceptional. The fishing crews allowed us to search a much greater area," Senior Chief Petty Officer Jason Walter, the officer in charge of Station Montauk said in a statement. "To find this man in the water after this much time is amazing.

"Unfortunately many of these cases don't end with a happy ending," added Swanson. "With that many hours passed, it's hard to say with the currents and the temperature of the water. Luckily everything came together for us."

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