ST. PETERSBURG — It's hard to imagine everything that led Doug Faraone to orchestrate the rescue of two boaters thrown overboard and left floating 2½ miles from shore Wednesday night.
His family lives in Luxembourg, so this is their yearly visit here. He doesn't even own a water scooter, but his neighbors let him use theirs. The storms over Tampa almost kept him from even going out. And he's really bad about charging his cell phone.
Yet somehow, during his once-a-year trip to St. Petersburg, Faraone piloted a borrowed scooter right to the spot where a man was waving for help just before dark fell.
Then Faraone called 911 and helped rescuers launch a search for the other missing boater, a woman who was picked up 30 minutes later by a St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue boat.
Both had been in the water for more than two hours, authorities said. They were thrown from their 24-foot boat after getting caught in the wake of a much larger vessel.
Both suffered from dehydration and fatigue. Both were taken to Bayfront Medical Center. Both were reported to be in stable condition.
"I kept telling the cops I had no idea why I drove out into the middle of the bay like that," Faraone said.
The two boaters he helped rescue, a 41-year-old man and a 43-year-old woman, were not identified by authorities. Neither was wearing a personal flotation device.
"You saved me, buddy," the man kept telling him, according to Faraone.
The man and woman were riding in a red and white Regal boat, authorities said, when they were both tossed overboard. Their boat was thrown by the wake of a Hatteras yacht, which can vary in length from 60 to 100 feet, as it passed through the shipping channel.
The man told Faraone he wasn't wearing a key piece of equipment: a safety lanyard or "kill switch." If he had been wearing one, it would have cut off the engine when he went over the side.
That was sometime around 6 p.m. The two didn't have any means of communication and nothing to hold onto. Apparently no one stopped to help them or knew they were in distress.
Then they lost sight of each other. The man said he tried to swim to land, but gave up after 30 minutes.
Faraone, 45, spends one month a year vacationing at his Venetian Isles home. He works overseas with Franklin Templeton Investments.
For some reason, Wednesday was the day he decided to take his son out into Tampa Bay. Their neighbor had just dropped the keys off to a Yamaha WaveRunner and left for their own vacation.
And that's how Faraone and his son Nicholas, 8, found themselves heading out into the bay late in the afternoon.
The father spotted what appeared to be a body, floating face up. He stayed 50 feet away. If it was a body, he thought, he didn't want his son to see it.
Then the body started waving.
"Hey!" the man shouted. "Hey!"
Faraone piloted the WaveRunner over and gave him something to hang onto. He estimated that they were about 2½ miles northeast of the Pier.
"He was shaken, but he had no injuries," Faraone said. "His eyes were bloodshot. I think he was a little pale from being in the water."
The stranded boater explained his plight. Faraone called 911 around 8 p.m. The Coast Guard triangulated his position using his cell phone.
Soon, Faraone saw flashing lights in the distance.
A Coast Guard boat arrived 20 minutes later. A St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue boat also joined the search. They found the woman, in the dark, 30 minutes after the search was launched.
"I don't know how they found her," Faraone said.
The woman later told firefighters that she thought they hadn't seen her when their boat passed her. She thought she had been left behind.
"She said she had tears in her eyes," said St. Petersburg Lt. Joel S. Granata. "But then the boat swung around and picked her up."
The two were reunited aboard the firefighters' boat, where they were treated by paramedics.
And Faraone was left with quite a story to tell. His son, though, has a slightly different version:
"Daddy I saw him first," he later told his father.
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