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Fisherman survives day at sea in crate after boat capsizes

Defying fate and an end that could have been as tragic as that of Titanic passengers, Ryan Harris of Alaska survived icy waters inside a small plastic fish crate for more than 24 hours before he was rescued.

A 19-year-old fisherman was rescued off the coast of Alaska Saturday after spending more than 24 hours adrift in a 4-by-4 foot plastic fish crate after his boat sank off Alaska. Young fisherman says he gave himself pep talks and sang “Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” to keep his spirits up.
His fellow crewmember managed to get into a survival suit and washed ashore on a beach after his own night afloat. A Coast Guard helicopter hoisted Ryan Harris, 19, of Sitka, from his plastic “lifeboat” on Saturday, more than 24 hours after the boat sank on Friday, the Daily Sitka Sentinel reported Monday.

Harris and his fishing buddy, 40-year-old Stonie “Mac” Huffman were fishing for salmon two miles off Cape Edgecumbe on Friday. Their 28-foot aluminum boat experienced hydraulic failure, which the men repaired, but they decided to head back to shore anyway.
On the way back, the waters became choppy and their boat was slammed by an eight-foot wave. The boat overturned and the men were thrown into the icy waters with no lifeboat, no life vests and no radios to call for help.

All the men had were two survival suits, a type of waterproof dry suit that protects a wearer from hypothermia in cold water.
Huffman was able to shimmy into a suit after two hours of effort as he held onto a plastic lid. Harris climbed into a four-by-four-foot plastic fish crate, but soon the two were separated by eight-foot tall waves.

The U.S. Coast Guard was notified by relatives of the pair after they did not return to dock that night. Four boats and four helicopters searched throughout the early morning and next day.
Huffman was found by authorities on a beach about 25 miles northwest of Sitka, wearing a survival suit he found in the water and struggled for two hours to put on while losing hold of the plastic lid. Huffman was able to point rescuers in the direction of Harris. Two hours later, and 26 hours their boat first sank on Friday, a Coast Guard helicopter hoisted Harris to safety.

“It’s truly a miracle they survived,” said Sitka Mountain Rescue Director Don Kluting, who helped in the search.
“I never thought I was going to die, but I was worried about Mac,” Harris told the newspaper Monday. “I’m glad to be here.”


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