A Caribbean charter fishing trip became a swim for survival for a brother and sister, their captain and a crewman when their boat suddenly took on water and sank.
All four survived the April 21 ordeal in the waters between St. Lucia and Martinique, but the Americans who chartered the boat out of St. Lucia — siblings Dan Suski, 30, of San Francisco, and Kate Suski, 39, of Seattle — have drawn widespread media coverage for their arduous 14-hour swim to shore.
The two were fishing aboard the Reel Irie about 8 miles off St. Lucia. Press reports describe the boat as 30, 31 and 35 feet, but the Reel Irie charter company told Soundings today that the boat was a 33-foot Blackfin.
Click play for an ABC News report and interview with the siblings.
Dan Suski was about 40 minutes into fighting a large marlin that the captain, Griffith Joseph, estimated to be about 400 pounds.
“I heard a loud noise and looked back into the cabin and he looked back at us, and I guess he went back in and saw there was some water in the forward cabin, and then he looked in the engine compartment, which I guess was about 70 percent full,” Suski said in the interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “Minutes later, it seemed like it was going down.”
Although the interview was done a week after the accident, both Suskis were visibly chafed under the arms and on the back of the neck from their life jackets. They told interviewer George Stephanopoulos that they also had cuts on their feet and “some joint pain, especially the ankles and the shoulder.”
With the boat rapidly sinking stern-first, Joseph ordered all aboard to don life jackets and abandon ship. The captain ordered mate Timothy Cooper to cut the line on the marlin, according to a posting on the Reel Irie website.
From the water they watched the boat sink, but they remained nearby because the captain had radioed their coordinates during a mayday call, Kate Suski told ABC. After about an hour, the Suskis said, they became separated from the captain and crewman and decided to take action.
“We could see land in the distance and just started swimming that way,” Kate said.
During their 14 hours in the sea, the Suskis tried to focus on keeping land in sight.
“We knew, based on the wind direction, that we were going pretty much toward land, but when it would disappear the fear set in and we just didn’t know where we were going, and then any number of things — the sharks, hypothermia, dehydration,” Dan Suski told ABC. “All those things crossed our minds, I think, as we were swimming in.”
They eventually arrived at St. Lucia’s Dauphin Beach. The captain and crewmember were rescued at sea.
A St. Lucia TV station, HTS St. Lucia, reported on the incident, interviewing Bruce Hawkshaw, a charter fishing business owner who headed out into deteriorating conditions in search of the four. Hawkshaw found two life jackets on the beach and rescued the Suskis.