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Florida pair tread water for 14 hours until chance rescue

By Ralph Ellis, CNN
updated 4:54 PM EDT, Sat June 21, 2014
This pair were found after treading water for 14 hours off the coast of Florida.
This pair were found after treading water for 14 hours off the coast of Florida.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Man and woman said they fell off a boat off Key Largo
  • They were found by fishermen 7 miles off the coast
  • The heroes included two off-duty Broward County detectives, one firefighter

(CNN) -- Some off-duty public safety workers ended up with an unusual catch when they went fishing off the coast of Florida Saturday morning.

They found a man and woman splashing in the water 7 miles from shore who said they'd spent the last 14 hours treading water, the Broward County Sheriff's Department said.

Sean McGovern, 50, and Mellisa Morris, 52, said they'd fallen off their boat in Key Largo about 6 p.m. Friday. The boat was in gear, and they watched it pull away from them, the sheriff's department said.

"They are very lucky — they didn't have any signal device," said U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Mark Barney. "They were trying to signal people down with their T-shirt. To be located and recovered by off-duty cops and a firefighter — that's a stroke of luck right there."

About 8 a.m. Saturday, two Broward sheriff's office detectives, a Broward firefighter and one of the men's father-in-law noticed splashing in the water from their boat, the sheriff's department said.

"We saw birds diving," said Adam Lee, a detective. "As we got closer, I saw fish jumping. We saw a white male with his shirt flagging us down."

The men pulled McGovern and Morris onto the boat. They were exhausted after drifting 10 nautical miles and appeared to have mild hypothermia and jellyfish stings, the sheriff's department said.

"We checked them out, made sure they were stable," Lee said.

The fishermen passed them over to the Coast Guard, which carried them to the Fort Lauderdale Coast Guard Station. Friends picked them up there.

"A lot of people don't wear life jackets because they don't have intention of being in water," Barney said. "It was a miracle they were able to tread water that long and were safely recovered."

Lee summed it up: "They're pretty lucky."

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