Photo by Geran de Clerk/Unsplash
A Key West, Florida, family gives thanks after their son, who was freediving and spearfishing several miles offshore, was rescued after being caught in the powerful Gulf Stream and swept out to sea.
According to WTVJ-TV, the Gartenmeyer family said they immediately began searching for 22-year-old Dylan Gartenmeyer, who was caught in the current and carried away by his friends.
“I had a bunch of floats around and everything,” Gartenmeyer said after being retrieved. “I knew the big fish were eating those baits and there were some sharks that were going to follow shortly after. I was prepared to fight all night, but I’m glad I didn’t have to.” Two friends of the diver were watching him from the boat when suddenly he got caught in the current.
Freediving is a form of underwater diving in which instead of using breathing equipment such as scuba gear, you hold your breath until you surface.
Gartenmeyer said he was diving to about 35 feet when the current swept him away in 150 feet of water. He told WTVJ-TV he was in the water for about two minutes and then what he did.
Gartenmeyer said he resurfaced about a mile from where he initially dived. He swam over a mile to a channel marker while he held on to a bamboo as he floated in the water.
Gartenmeyer said, “I could see the Coast Guard in the distance to the west. I could see their blue lights, the helicopters moving, doing their grid patterns.” “My bamboo was starting to slip away from me.”
The Coast Guard was searching for the youth by boat and helicopter, but he is yet to be traced.
Dylan’s mother, Tabitha Gartenmeyer, told WTVJ that they went to his last known coordinates, but he was not there. But soon, a family friend saw two buoys tied up, and then several family members saw Gartenmayer in the water.
The story of Gartenmayer’s search and rescue has gone viral on social media.
Gartenmeyer’s cousin, Priscilla Gartenmeyer, posted two short videos on Facebook showing her reaction after finding and pulling the young man out of the ocean last Thursday evening.
“God was definitely on our side,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
“Yesterday we got a terrifying phone call that Dial had dived and we hadn’t seen him in two hours. After calling the whole family, we got on the boat and took the scariest ride of our lives to his last known coordinates Surely God was on our side, because as soon as we stopped running and started looking, we immediately saw it at the exact coordinates we were given,” wrote Priscilla Gartenmeyer.
“That second video was the moment we all laid our eyes on him, I can’t stop watching him: he’s the smartest and most experienced diver I know in the water, he swam about three kilometers before losing power She carried three buoys and a hammock was made to float,” he explained.
Gartenmeyer said that when he got on the boat, his mother took off his scuba gear and started crying in her arms.
“It’s a miracle. We landed right on top of my son. And a needle in a haystack. You’re in the middle of the ocean. And that’s God,” said Tabitha Gartenmeyer.
The Coast Guard told WTVJ-TV it was grateful to know Gartenmayer was found safe.
“Often missing-diver cases do not have a positive outcome, and the circumstances of this case did not call for one,” said Lt. Commander Elizabeth Tatum, search and rescue mission coordinator. “The sunset, weather conditions and Dylan’s outfit were against us on this one, but his foresight to tie mooring balls to make him a bigger target in the water was clever.”
Gartenmeyer’s mother, Tabitha, said generations of the Gartenmeyer family have called Key West home.
“As Key West natives, we love the ocean. I was fishing with Dylan on my belly,” he told WTVJ-TV.
His son told that he has been doing diving and fishing since childhood.
The family said that, thanks to a miracle, he would be able to dive another day.