PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Pasco County Fire Rescue officials are working to learn why a boat started taking on water Sunday, causing 13 people to flip into the Gulf of Mexico out near Anclote Key.
All 13 passengers survived with scrapes and bruises and one woman regained consciousness after crews arrived, officials said.
“It was utter panic,” said passenger Loryn Decker.
“I thought I was going to die,” said passenger Allona Haynes.
Decker and Haynes, along with 11 of their friends, were dumped into the water Sunday when the boat they were on capsized. They say they are thankful to be alive.
“We had a few people who couldn’t swim, that was the first thing. Even us who could swim, it was so hard. I was treading water for 20 minutes,” Decker said.
The group was trying to get to Anclote Key and noticed they started taking on water. They tried to turn around but it was too late.
“As we turned around, a big wave overtook and it was just within 30 seconds the rest just started going down. It happened so quickly, happened within 30 seconds,” Decker said.
There was instant panic. Officials say no one was wearing a life jacket.
“Luckily my dad saved me and dragged me to the boat and I got one of the seat cushions to hold me up. I thought i was going to drown,” Haynes said.
Investigators said conditions weren’t good for inexperienced boaters. Everyone survived but it wasn’t easy getting to safety when Pasco County rescuers arrived.
“Even the sheriffs were having trouble getting everybody on the boat because it had to be one by one just because of all the panic and everything. I’m just glad we’re all okay now,” said passenger Richard Vasta.
The passengers are calling a man and his two nephews heroes for helping them before rescuers arrived.
Fire officials say it sounds like a combination of inexperience and rough conditions that possibly played a part in capsizing the boat.