After spending almost a week on a life raft after Tropical Storm Debby sank their barge, two men have been rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard, ABC Action News reports.
Vance Bryan, 48, and Gerard Chessher, 37, were presumed dead after the pair went missing almost a week ago. Bryan and Chessher had been on their way from Captiva Island, near Fort Myers, Fla., to Cancun, Mexico, when their barge sank in tumultuous seas during the storm.
"The boat didn't have enough power to stay ahead of the waves, to stay bow to the waves, and the seas overpowered us," Bryan said.
According to Tampa Bay Online, the men saved themselves by getting on a small inflatable raft. They spent about a week on the raft before they were finally rescued.
"Thank God we had the equipment on board. Without that life raft behind you, we wouldn't be here now. We wouldn't have survived a day without it," Bryan said.
After several harrowing days lost at sea, Bryan and Chessher -- dehydrated but alive -- were spotted by a Good Samaritan aboard a tug barge, who took them in, Central Florida News 13 reports. The person then contacted the Coast Guard -- who had already been notified of the pair's disappearance.
"With the south winds with the storm [they] could have been anywhere in the Gulf," said Lt. Ben O'Loughlin of the Coast Guard after the pair had been located. "Our search areas covered more than 22,000 square nautical miles and as you know, we've been searching for over five days now."
A friend of one of the two men had contacted the Coast Guard when the pair didn't arrive in Cancun on schedule.
Bryan and Chessher were picked up by the Coast Guard and delivered to dry land in St. Petersburg, Fla., early Friday morning.
The relieved pair told ABC Action News that their rescue couldn't have come any sooner.
"We had limited supplies," said Bryan. "We had maybe three days of drinking water left."
"Thank God for the U.S. Coast Guard. Without them, it would have been over with," he told Central Florida News 13.
Note: There is discrepancy between the different sources as to the spelling of Gerard Chessher's name. He has alternatively been referred to as Gerald Chessher and Gerald Chesher. We have followed the spelling used by ABC Action News.