NY fisherman survives 12 hours lost at sea with help of boots

John Aldridge
John Aldridge
CBS News

(CBS News) OAKDALE, N.Y. -- The Coast Guard rescued a commercial fisherman Wednesday in the ocean off Long Island. He'd spent 12 hours in the Atlantic after falling off his boat. In all that time, he managed to keep his wits about him and, fortunately, his boots.

John Aldridge is one tough lobsterman. It was three in the morning and he was in the Atlantic Ocean, more than 40 miles offshore.

"A pair of boots, T-shirt and shorts and my knife," Aldridge says, listing the items he had with him.

"Fins swimming around me, and I'm like, 'I can't even deal with that,'" he says. "It must've been a shark."

John Aldridge turned over his boots and used them as floats.
John Aldridge turned over his boots and used them as floats.
CBS News

Asked if there was ever a point at which he thought he was all done, Aldridge replies, "I wouldn't let that thought come into my head. Positive thinking the whole time. Death was not an option."

"I immediately set goals for myself: OK, I'm floating on these boots. I'm above the water, I'm breathing. The water's warm. All right, that's one goal," Aldridge recalls. "Next goal: I got to stay alive until sunrise. If I make it to sunrise, they're going to call the Coast Guard and come looking for me. They'll be able to find me."

Turning over the boots and using them as floats, he made it to a fishing buoy.

John Aldridge was hoisted to safety after 12 hours lost at sea.
John Aldridge was hoisted to safety after 12 hours lost at sea.
CBS News

"I waited there, waited there, waited there," he says. "The jets flew around, thought they might have seen me. Then about a half an hour later, a helicopter came straight down the buoy line - bam, right on top of me. Unbelievable."

What was he thinking when he realized the chopper had seen him?

"I was like, 'I'm outta here,' you know? 'Thank you, God. I'm outta here," he says.

"And a swimmer came down, a rescue swimmer swam up to me and said, 'Sir, we've been looking for you for nine hours,'" Aldridge says. "And I said, 'I've been looking for you for 12.' He said, 'Amazing that you're alive.' I said, 'I feel great, let's go.'"

Aldridge's family celebrated when they found out he'd been rescued.
Aldridge's family celebrated when they found out he'd been rescued.
CBS News

A call home then touched off a family celebration. His mother joked she'd kill him once for all he'd put her through, knowing what we all do now: John Aldridge doesn't die so easily.


  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.

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