(ABCNews)--A Florida man is recovering after falling overboard from his fishing boat and treading water for 18 hours until a family of good Samaritans rescued him in the Gulf of Mexico.
Efstathios Moumouris’ miraculous story of survival began Wednesday morning when he departed from a Fort Island boat ramp for a fishing trip. Around 1:30 p.m., the 51-year-old sent his wife a picture of a fish he caught. A short time later, he texted that he was on his way home, but the weather took a turn for the worst and a thunderstorm rolled in.
“He went to grab the life vest and the boat flew away from his so fast he couldn’t catch up with it,” Moumouris wife, Anastasia, said.
Moumouris’ wife became worried after she didn’t hear from her husband and notified authorities. The Coast Guard launched boats and helicopters to assist in the search for Moumouris.
“It was an intensive search, helicopters, small boats combing the area. No sign of him,” U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Gabe Somma said.
Moumouris tread water through the night and came close to being rescued twice, according to his wife. Moumouris spotted a Coast Guard helicopter that failed to see him and then, he saw a shrimp boat around 1 a.m. Thursday.
“He got 100 yards from it and they pulled up and left. And he swam, and he was just floating,” Anastasia said.
Officials found Moumouris’ 16-foot boat at 4 a.m., nine miles from where he departed. Crews continued to search for the man, who was still treading in the Gulf of Mexico.
Fellow fisherman Ted Hoy and his family went out scalloping Thursday afternoon when they saw something unusual. “I was driving…and we just looked and said what is that? We weren’t sure so we headed that way,” Hoy recalled.
That’s when Hoy’s family spotted Moumouris almost 18 hours after he fell overboard without a life jacket. ”For someone treading water, he was in good condition, dehydrated but happy to be alive,” Somma said.
Moumouris was taken to the Fort Island boat ramp where emergency medical service personnel evaluated him and transported him to Seven Rivers Regional Medical Center in Crystal River with no major injuries.
“I don’t know what else to say. It’s a miracle, it really is,” Anastasia said