OAKDALE, N.Y. – A Long Island lobsterman who spent 12 hours floating in the Atlantic while clinging to his rubber boots is back in his family's embrace.
John Aldridge got huge hugs from relatives when he arrived Thursday afternoon at his parents’ home in Oakdale, N.Y.
Aldridge says he never gave up hope. He says it helped to think about his 4-year-old nephew, Jake.
The Montauk, N.Y., resident was not wearing a life jacket when he fell overboard around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Coast Guard crews from five states and commercial fishermen searched 780 square miles before finding him.
He was treated for dehydration, exposure and hypothermia at a hospital in Falmouth, Mass.
Aldridge says he’s looking forward to getting some sleep and plans to take a week or two off work.
“These boots saved my life,” Aldridge told Newsday. “I put one under each arm and I said, `I’m going to live. I can do this.”’
The ordeal began while he was on watch duty aboard the Anna Mary, a 44-foot lobster boat out of Montauk. He was trying to move a cooler when the handle snapped off, sending him “straight out the back of the boat” around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, he said.
Aldridge, 45, said he spotted boats for several hours but they did not see him. He said he also saw “the whole gamut of sea life coming at me,” and feared a shark attack.
The crew notified the Coast Guard that he was missing around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Coast Guard crews from across New England and commercial fishing crews coordinated a search. A Coast Guard helicopter out of Cape Cod finally spotted Aldridge and hoisted him up to safety at around 3 p.m.