(NEW YORK) — A teenager said he’s grateful to be safe after he was rescued from the ocean off the coast of New Jersey early Wednesday morning.
The teen, 19-year-old Dylan Gowan, was en route from New York City to New Jersey when his jet ski broke down, forcing him to spend a night at sea, he said at a news conference at the hospital where he is being treated.
He was reported missing Tuesday evening after he didn’t make it to his destination in Highlands, New Jersey, the U.S. Coast Guard said, and Coast Guard crews started an all-night search.
Gowan didn’t have a cell phone with him, he said.
When the jet ski began to sink Tuesday, Gowan said he tried to swim to shore. But the current was moving out, so he instead swam to a tower in the water and climbed to the top. Gowan said he tried to flag down boats, but they didn’t see him.
He spent the night at the tower, and when dawn broke, Gowan decided to swim to shore, he said.
Gowan said he was “very scared,” but confident that enough people were looking for him that he wouldn’t die in the water.
After about 25 to 30 minutes of swimming, Gowan said he saw a Coast Guard boat.
The Coast Guard said they found him in the water around 6:30 a.m. He was conscious and responsive, the Coast Guard said, but exhibited signs of dehydration and hypothermia. Gowan was taken to a local hospital where he remained as of Wednesday night.
Gowan said he was smiling ear to ear when he finally saw the boat. “I needed to see my family,” he said.
“I ran out of the police car and ran into the ambulance, and I just hugged him,” his mother said, according to ABC News affiliate WABC-TV.
Gowan, who is an emergency medical responder and a junior firefighter, said he grew up on the water and never ran into any problems before. He said Wednesday he feels so lucky that he started to swim in the right time and right place where the boat could spot him.
Coast Guard spokesman Charles Rowe told ABC News that more than 100 people were involved in the search.
“This is why we search, even when the odds are against us,” Coast Guard Capt. Thomas Morkan said in a news release. “You simply never know when fate or luck has intervened to keep someone alive long past the time that logic dictates otherwise.”
While survival in the water is based on many factors, it’s unlikely for anyone to survive in the water more than 24 hours, Rowe said.
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