A Louisiana teenager visiting St. Simon Island, Georgia, miraculously survived spending nearly 10 hours alone in the ocean after he likely got caught in a rip current and dragged out to sea.
Blake Spataro, 19, told WJAX-TV he was just sitting in shallow water Tuesday when he was suddenly pulled out into the Atlantic Ocean. He said he tried to yell for help, but no one heard him.
“I didn’t want to die out there. I was talking to God the entire night,” Spataro said.
The teenager ended up spending nearly 10 hours alone in the ocean as the U.S. Coast Guard and his family frantically searched for him. When he got tired, he said he would float on his back.
Spataro told the news station that just as he was about to give up, he saw lights from a nearby Coast Guard ship, which gave him the strength to push through the waves and make it to shore on a golf course a few miles from St. Simon Island.
“I didn’t want to die out there. I was talking to God the entire night.”
“I wanted to live. I thought I was too young to die, and I simply didn’t want to end there,” Spataro said.
“I am truly blessed to be alive today,” he said.
Spataro’s mother was not on the trip to Georgia with her son and ex-husband. When she got the call that her son had gone missing, she said she had a “gut feeling” he was in the water and hadn’t gotten lost on land.
“I knew he was in the water. I felt it,” Janice Dansby Spataro told Fox News. “I prayed to God all night long. I was praying, and I reached out on social media to ask for prayer because there’s power in prayer.”
After Spataro made it back to land early Wednesday morning, he borrowed a stranger’s phone to call his parents.
“Hey, mom, I’m alive,” Janice Dansby Spataro recalled her son's words.
Jay Wiggins, director of Glynn County Emergency Management Agency, said he’s had to deliver “a lot of bad news” in his job, but on Wednesday, he was able to do the opposite.
“The opportunity to speak with the young man’s father and let our public safety partners know the positive outcome of this situation made my day, and I wanted to share it with all of you,” Wiggins said in a Facebook post.
Other than dehydration and exhaustion, Sparato's mother said he didn't have any injuries, although he was taken to the hospital to be checked out as a precaution.
Justin Irwin, senior chief with the U.S. Coast Guard in Brunswick, told WJAX he visited Spataro in the hospital and told him he was proud.
“I’ve been in the Coast Guard for 18 years, and I have never seen anything like this,” Irwin said.
Spataro summed up the experience to WJAX: “Worst vacation ever, but also my most exciting ever.”