A pair of brothers who spent hours treading water after a boating accident on Monday avoided a tragic end by clinging to parts of a cooler.
On Monday morning, George Verdecia, 29, and his older brother were fishing in choppy waters off the coast of Key Biscayne, Fla., when their 12-foot vessel flipped over, according to the United States Coast Guard. The life jackets were in their storage location underneath the seats, making them inaccessible.
However, when a cooler popped to the surface and continued to float there, the brothers grabbed it, according to Yahoo! News. Verdecia held the lid and his brother, the cooler's base -- until a strong current ripped the two apart.
"He was barely hanging on to the lid of the cooler," said Coast Guard officer Joseph Abeyta. "That was basically what saved his life, the lid of the cooler."
The two drifted in the cold until Verdecia's brother finally reached land and could begin to try to get help.
"One of the brothers came up to shore, and that's where he gave us more information as to where we could find the other brother," Key Biscayne Fire Rescue Chief Marcos Osorio told WSVN.
The brother found a woman who called 911 and could see Verdecia from the shore, Yahoo! News reported. She directed Abeyta's Coast Guard boat to the location in the water, where they pulled him to safety.
"When he came on board our vessel, he was physically exhausted and showing early onset of hypothermia," Abeyta said.
The rescue occurred less than 20 minutes after responders received the call, which made it a quick end to a very, very long night. Reports indicate Verdecia spent nearly seven hours at sea.
"He's fine, he's just really cold right now and [has] the skin from being in the water too long," Verdecia's girlfriend told KLTV shortly after the incident.
He and his brother, who both received a minor injuries, were taken to Mercy Hospital and released Monday afternoon. Lt. Commander Joseph Abeyta told NBC Miami that the cooler lid proved to be crucial.
“Had he not had the cooler, had he just had a little plastic bag with his stuff in it, I’m not too confident that [Verdecia] would have survived this morning,” Abeyta said.