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Tragedy in Gulf: Sole survivor Nick Schuyler says wave flipped anchored boat

The Coast Guard approaches sole survivor Nick Schuyler as he clings to the overturned boat.

Associated Press

The Coast Guard approaches sole survivor Nick Schuyler as he clings to the overturned boat.

TAMPA — The fishing boat carrying two NFL players and two friends overturned in rough water after their anchor got stuck, the sole survivor told the Coast Guard.

In a 23-page report provided to the Associated Press on Monday under a Freedom of Information Act request, the Coast Guard documents two conversations with Nick Schuyler, a former University of South Florida football player.

The report says the group went roughly 70 miles to fish for amberjack Feb. 28. Also onboard the 21-foot Everglades boat were Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper, free-agent NFL defensive lineman Corey Smith, who played for the Detroit Lions last season, and former University of South Florida player William Bleakley. The men's names were redacted in the report.

About 5:30 p.m., the report said, the group ran into trouble. Schuyler told investigators he thought the anchor was caught in a coral reef. They tried to free it, but water filled the boat and it capsized.

Tossed into the frigid water, the men grabbed their life vests. Schuyler said they held on to the boat for four hours. But as the night wore on, their will to survive appears to have weakened and the effects of hypothermia were likely setting in.

Schuyler told the Coast Guard that one of the men "freaked out" and took off his life vest and disappeared that night.

Another man became unruly and began throwing punches. Schuyler told the Coast Guard the second man also took off his life jacket, dived under the water and was never seen again. The third man thought he saw land nearly two days after the boat capsized and decided to swim for it.

Schuyler told the Coast Guard that man said his life jacket was too tight and he took it off.

Officials have said that they found three life jackets: one on Schuyler, another near the boat and a third underneath it. The bodies of the three who disappeared have not been found.

It's unclear how accurate the account is. Schuyler, who was found clinging to the overturned boat about 35 miles off Clearwater and nearly 48 hours after the accident, was suffering from hypothermia. Schuyler's doctor called it a miracle that he survived in the 63-degree water for nearly two days.

Tragedy in Gulf: Sole survivor Nick Schuyler says wave flipped anchored boat 03/16/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 19, 2009 12:08pm]
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