PORT RICHEY — Cole Torrent posted a picture of his lime-green Sea Doo personal watercraft to Facebook on Tuesday afternoon. For the third time since Monday afternoon, he asked if anyone wanted to join him on the water. But apart from one friend warning about the weather, he didn’t get any response.
The comments started pouring in that night: friends looking for news, pleas for his safety, row after row of prayer-hands emoji. By then, Torrent had been missing for hours.
He became the subject of an overnight rescue mission that involved the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, the Port Richey Police Department and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. And Wednesday morning, 12 hours after he went missing, Torrent stepped off a boat and onto dry land at Nick’s Park in Port Richey.
After entering Gulf waters from Millers Bayou, Torrent spotted a bird tangled in fishing line, FOX 13 reported. He left his Sea Doo to help it but didn’t secure the watercraft, and it drifted away from him. He tried to swim to it but tired himself out. He eventually broke a window to an empty stilt house, where he waited — wrapped in a tarp and warmed by a space heater he found in the house — until he heard the Sheriff’s Office’s helicopters.
Torrent, who told FOX 13 he was tired and hungry but otherwise fine, didn’t immediately respond to a Facebook message from a Tampa Bay Times reporter Wednesday morning. In the comments of his last Facebook post, the prayers had turned to celebration.
“I’m flying down to Florida next week,” one friend commented. “Only you would survive something like this.”