NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — Six Wilkes County men have survived after their boat capsized off the coast of South Carolina, leaving them to tread water for an hour and a half.
Ricky and Corey Morrison went out fishing with six friends and family members, near Murrells Inlet in South Carolina, this past Sunday morning around nine. Six of them are from Wilkes County, the other two live in Georgia. They had bagged a few fish before the waves started growing.
“We [were going to] take a little fishing excursion and we was actually planning on going out about 20 miles. I’m glad we didn’t,” said Corey.
The men were about three miles off the coast when a pump on their 32 foot boat failed. The boat began to fill with water.
“It got real deep then and that’s when I came up to him and I told him, ‘We’re going to have to call somebody, we need help out here,” said Corey.
As the men worked to get the water out with five gallon buckets, a wave came crashing overhead.
“When it crashed over the back, the water came all the way up towards the front of the boat. And that got all of our attention,” said Corey.
The men rushed to gather life jackets, but only got seven out before the boat began to sink.
“Fifteen seconds after that, the boat was gone. It happened that quick,” Ricky recalled.
“When it got to the tip of the boat, it [kind of] just, bobbed up and down for probably about two seconds. Then it was completely gone,” said Corey.
The men said they were hoping to hold on to the boat. With it now on the bottom of the ocean, Corey’s grandfather, Jerry, tried to hang on to a nearby buoy. However, the buoy was slick and he couldn’t get a grip.
“He was — had drank a bunch of salt water — and was throwing up and got in pretty bad shape,” said Corey, of his grandfather.
Corey gave Jerry his life jacket, and then shared Ricky’s as the men fought to stay afloat.
Meanwhile, Corey had called 911. He had purchased a waterproof phone cover just days before the incident.
“She was asking us for an address, ‘I don’t know that’s [going to] do any good,’ that’s what we told her. ‘Well there [isn’t an] address, we’re out in the water,'” said Corey.
An hour and a half went by. The men were floating amongst their bait in the ocean.
“The waves were probably eight to ten footers, I mean they were just crashing right over us,” said Corey.
“I mean the waves, you’d go down, you couldn’t see nothing and then when you come up, when the waves come up, that’s when we was looking and maybe hoping to see somebody getting closer,” Ricky added.
Then suddenly, a familiar shape was on the horizon. A fishing boat was headed their way.
“At first it was hard to get his attention. You know, I was like, ‘Please don’t, please don’t turn around,'” said Ricky.
The man kept coming. They had been saved.
“We were just high fiving and stuff when we finally got on the boat. You know, we were most definitely thanking God, too,” said Ricky.
The fisherman finding them was a total stroke of luck. He had never received a call about them.
“Did you know we were out here,” Corey asked the fisherman. “He said, ‘Y’all just got lucky, I just happened to see y’all.'”
Jerry was still throwing up aboard the boat, but was recovering.
“If it had been another probably 15 minutes, I don’t know if he would have made it,” said Corey.
About 20 minutes after being rescued, the men passed the Coast Guard on their way back to shore. They said without the fisherman they’re not sure they would have ever been found.
“Not a lot of time goes by in the day that I don’t think about it. One way or the other,” said Ricky.
Crews went out to search for the boat but it was never found.