A family from Key West, Florida, is thanking God after their son, who was free-diving and spearfishing several miles offshore, was rescued after being caught up in the powerful Gulf Stream current and swept even further out to sea.
The Gartenmayer family said they immediately began to search for 22-year-old Dylan Gartenmayer, who got caught in the current and was carried away from his friends, according to WTVJ-TV.
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“I had a bunch of bait floating up around me and everything,” Gartenmayer said after being recovered. “I knew that there were big fish eating those baits and there were sharks that were going to be shortly behind them. I was ready to fight the night out, but I’m glad I didn’t have to.”
Two of the free diver’s friends had been watching him from a boat when he had suddenly found himself caught in the current.
Free diving is a form of underwater diving that relies on breath-holding until resurfacing rather than the use of breathing apparatus such as scuba gear.
Gartenmayer said he was free-diving at about 35 feet when the current swept him out to waters as deep as 150 feet. He told WTVJ-TV that he was underwater for almost two minutes and what he did next.
Gartenmayer said he resurfaced about a mile from where he was initially diving. He swam over a mile to a channel marker while clutching bamboo he found drifting in the water.
“I could see Coast Guard out in the distance to the west of me. I could see their blue lights, the helicopter going, doing their grid pattern,” Gartenmayer said. “My bamboo had started drifting away from me.”
The Coast Guard was conducting a search for the young man by boat and by helicopter, but hadn’t spotted him yet.
Dylan’s mother, Tabitha Gartenmayer told WTVJ they went to his last known coordinates, but he wasn’t at that location. But soon, a family friend spotted two buoys tied together and then several family members spotted Gartenmayer in the water.
The story of the family’s search for Gartenmayer and his ultimate rescue has gone viral on social media.
Gartenmayer’s cousin, Priscilla Gartenmayer, posted two short videos to Facebook showing their reaction after finding him about dusk last Thursday and pulling the young man from the ocean.
“God was definitely on our side,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
“Got a horrible phone call yesterday that Dyl had went diving and hadn’t been seen for two hours! After calling the fam together we hopped on the contender and had the scariest boat ride of our life out to his last known coordinates. God was definitely on our side because as soon as we stopped running out and started looking, we spotted him right away at almost the exact coordinates we were given,” Priscilla Gartenmayer wrote.
“That second video was the moment we all laid eyes one him, I can’t stop watching it – he is the smartest most experienced diver I know on the water, he swam about two miles and before he lost his energy he grabbed 3 buoys and made a hammock for him self to float on!” she explained.
Gartenmayer said his mom took his dive gear from him when he boarded the boat and started hugging him and crying.
“It’s a miracle. We landed right on my son. And a needle in a haystack. You’re in the middle of the ocean. And that’s God,” Tabitha Gartenmayer said.
The Coast Guard told WTVJ-TV that it was grateful to know that Gartenmayer was found safe.
“Too often missing diver cases don’t have positive outcomes, and the circumstances of this case didn’t forecast for one,” said Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator, Lieutenant Commander Elizabeth Tatum. “Sunset, weather conditions, and Dylan’s outfit were playing against us in this case, but his foresight to lash mooring balls together to make him a bigger target in the water was smart.”
Gartenmayer’s mother Tabitha said several generations of the Gartenmayer family have called Key West home.
“As natives of Key West, we love the ocean. I was spearfishing with Dylan in my belly,” she told WTVJ-TV.
Her son explained he had been diving and fishing since he was a child.
The family said by way of a miracle, he will get to dive another day.
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