A fisherman had two of his fingertips reattached after cutting them off to free himself from a sinking boat, his employer said Tuesday.

Surgeons told William Messenger that circulation had returned to the severed tips, said David Groves, spokesman for the Washington State Labor Council. A groggy Messenger spoke with the Labor Council from Harborview Medical Center by phone early Tuesday.

Messenger, 51, cut his trapped fingertips with a pocket knife just minutes before his future son-in-law, Jarrod Todd, arrived with help and tools, Grays Harbor County Undersheriff Rick Scott said.

"Hindsight is 20-20. If he'd have known help was not that far away, he might have held off taking the steps that he did," Scott said.

Messenger and Todd, 29, were fishing on the Wynoochee River on Sunday when rapids swept their 16-foot drift boat into a log jam. The side of the boat slammed against a log, pinning Messenger's left index and middle fingers. The pressure of the water held the boat in place.

The boat was turned upstream at a 45-degree angle and began to fill with water. Todd escaped and went to a nearby home in Aberdeen for help, Scott said. In the meantime, Scott said, Messenger was straddling the quickly filling boat and began to worry it would sink before Todd returned.