Florida

Diver opens up about family’s miraculous rescue off the Florida Keys – NBC10 Philadelphia

Six days after his mother launched a rescue mission to rescue him while he was missing at sea, Dylan Gartenmayer says he feels lucky to be alive.

On Jan. 19, 22-year-old Gartenmayer was freediving near Key West, Florida, when the currents of the Gulf Stream sucked him to deeper waters. Minutes passed before he resurfaced, and when he did, Gartenmayer was nearly a mile from the boat he had dived from.

“I was just being pulled further and further and could watch the boat slowly getting smaller. It was definitely ‘OK, this is about to get serious,'” he said in a Jan. 25 interview with his mom on TODAY.

He swam more than a mile to a channel marker where he built a raft of mooring balls to await help. The sun was beginning to set, so Gartenmayer, who is an experienced diver and was wearing a wetsuit, had to take steps to protect himself.

“Watching that sunset was like my heart sinking,” he said. “I thought, ‘Oh, this is going to be a long night out here.’ That was my idea with the buoys, I tied them together and tried to get up as high as possible, keep a little warmth and put less of my body in the water for potential predators.”

Although the Coast Guard had already begun searching for him, Gartenmayer’s mother, Tabitha Gartenmayer, launched her own mission to rescue him.

“It definitely had to be a miracle,” she said. It had to be God protecting him all along, our angels above, because if we land right on top of him you could see it’s a needle in a haystack out there.

“He was smart enough to get the buoys, knowing his head wouldn’t be big enough to find him,” she said.

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Ultimately, it was the boat piloted by Dylan’s family and friends that pulled him out of the water hours after he disappeared.

“When I saw them stop and point straight at me, I was like, ‘Oh my God. They see me,'” he recalled.

The Gartenmayers and their incredible story went viral this week after a cousin who captured his rescue on her phone shared the story on TikTok.

“The sunset, weather conditions, and Dylan’s outfit all played against us on this one,” said Lt. Cmdr. Elizabeth Tatum, a search and rescue mission coordinator for the Coast Guard’s Key West sector, recently told NBC News. “But his foresight of lashing mooring balls together to make him a bigger target in the water was wise.”

Tabitha said the call that her son was missing still shook her.

“It literally took my breath away,” she said, fighting back tears. “I couldn’t even breathe, it all just went away.”

“It’s definitely a miracle,” she said.

This story originally appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY:

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