A California yachtsman who fell into the open ocean in the middle of the night thought he was going to die until he managed to swim to the nearest oil rig with the help of a seal that pushed him forward.
Scott Thompson accidentally fell overboard from his boat while in the Pacific, a few miles off the coast of Santa Barbara earlier this month.
Dressed only in shorts and a T-shirt, he was convinced he was done for as his motorboat continued to sail without him.
Scott Thompson, pictured, fell into the Santa Barbara Sound off the coast of California. At that time, he was only wearing shorts and a T-shirt, in the middle of the night.
As his boat sped away, he had a choice: either swim to shore or swim to the nearest oil rig in the photo.
“I thought to myself, great, this is how I’m going to die,” Thompson told ABC7. “Today is the day I die.”
Thompson was in the area known as Santa Barbara Sound, between the coast of California and the Channel Islands, when he began to follow his boat, but it was to no avail.
“That’s when I realized, well, ‘we’re in trouble,'” Thompson said. “And I just started swimming as hard as I could towards the boat, and it really didn’t take long for me to realize that it was getting further and I wasn’t getting any closer.”
Thompson, who claims to be a good swimmer and an experienced diver, said he felt the cold of the ocean. It was dark, not even the moon could guide him.
Thompson said he was helped by a rescue seal that pushed him forward (file photo, not an actual helpful seal)
“The panic that started was like, ‘Wow, this is a pretty tough situation,’” he said.
Knowing that the ground was too far away to revive, Thompson said he spotted an oil rig nearby. He went to it, spurred on by thoughts of his family, for whom he was determined to survive.
“Just keep swimming, you should go home to your family.” Thompson told himself.
“I was destroying myself in my mind just imagining my girls and my son growing up without me, and my wife, you know, has no husband to support her … I didn’t think about sharks or anything like that. until I hear this splash?’
Splash was a seal that Thompson called an “angel” who came to his rescue.
“It was a medium-sized harbor seal,” Thompson said. “The seal went under the water, and he came up and pushed me with his elbow. like a dog comes up and pushes your leg.
“Even putting on a wetsuit, getting ready, going into that water and swimming to the platform was horrendous,” Paul Amaral, a Marine with Channel Watch, told the BBC. “I can’t imagine myself in the water in shorts and a T-shirt at night. There was no moon, I mean, it was pitch black.
“Did he know, like, hey, this person is in trouble, hey, keep going, dude?” he thought.
Thompson said that after being pushed by the seal, he felt motivated to get to the oil platform.
“You have to get to the platform because you don’t have a choice,” Thompson said.
It took him five hours to get to the rig, which was even closer than if he had decided to swim back to land.
“It’s getting lighter and I’m just crying. And I kind of scream at the sky. he said.
Thompson said that the push from the seal was like “an angel called to his aid”. (photo file)
Crews aboard the rig heard him and were able to give him medical attention while the Coast Guard was called.
Thompson was airlifted to the hospital and treated for hypothermia. Ultimately, his boat was pulled by a tugboat crew.
“Even putting on a wetsuit, getting ready, going into that water and swimming to the platform was horrendous,” Paul Amaral, a Marine with Channel Watch, told the BBC.
“I can’t imagine myself in the water in shorts and a T-shirt at night. There was no moon, I mean, it was pitch black.