22 hours in the water

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Patrick Scartozzi, 43, of Palm City,Fla., found himself swimming in the Atlantic Ocean for 22 hours when his fishing boat got away from him, according to TCPalm.com.

Scartozzi, who is a certified diver, took his boat out last Friday to the St. Lucie Inlet with the intent on spearing snapper and grouper along with his friend and business partner, Glay Brandt. When Scartozzi emerged from a 95-foot deep reef dive, he found himself 75 yards away from the boat. Brandt said he had moved the boat to shoo away a large group of fishing boats that appeared on the reef. Scartozzi was wearing a black wet suit with no brightly-colored markings, according to the report.

Before he could signal to Brandt, the current drifted him farther from the boat and out of earshot. To stay afloat, Scartozzi began shedding gear, such as his weight belt and spear gun. However, he held onto the powerhead of his spear gun, a .357 Magnum attachment that he hoped to fire and attract attention with its muzzle flash. He also kept his small dive scooter, which he steered toward shore. When the batteries died, he used it as a float, according to the report.

With a Coast Guard plane overhead, he fired the stainless steel powerhead, which recoiled and pierced his right hand between two fingers.

He kept paddling southwest toward HutchinsonIsland, according to the report. At 10 a.m., he saw a Coast Guard helicopter fly up the beach and stop suddenly. They lowered a basket, Scartozzi rolled into it, and off they went, straight to St. Mary’s Medical Center West Palm Beach, where Scartozzi’s hand was repaired.

Now recovering at home, his wife, Chris, says he has no plans to stop diving despite his ordeal, according to the report.

— Elizabeth Ellis

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