DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Repeating a favorite line from a Disney movie helped a Florida father and his autistic son survive more than 15 hours treading water in the Atlantic, the man said Wednesday.
Walter Marino, 46, said on NBC's "Today" show that the call-and-response of a catchphrase from "Toy Story" kept the pair in touch as choppy waters pulled them apart. "To infinity," the father would yell. "And beyond," Christopher Marino, 12, would finish.
"Buzz Lightyear got us through," Marino said, referring to the cartoon character in the film. "I'd be screaming 'To infinity, and beyond,' and then I would hear him, and it would get more and more distant until finally I couldn't hear anything else."
The Marinos were vacationing in Daytona Beach from their central Florida home on Saturday when Christopher became caught in a current and his father went after him. The pair were swept away and stranded overnight.
A boater found Marino around 8 a.m. Sunday about 8 miles from the shore. Marino feared the worst for his son. When, two hours later, the U.S. Coast Guard asked him to come upstairs on the rescue boat, he was certain they had bad news. But they told him Christopher had been rescued about a mile from where Marino was found.
"At that point, I was just elated and I never kissed so many Coast Guard men in my life," Marino said.
Neither of them suffered any serious injury during the ordeal. Marino said Christopher's "lack of fear" was calming to him as they swam.
"He was on an adventure," Marino said. "It was all just a day in the ocean for him. And it wasn't until the jellyfish started to sting that he started to freak out a bit."