Man survives freezing water, swims for five hours to safety


An evening boat trip quickly turned life-threatening for a California man.

Scott Thompson, a commercial fisherman, sets out on the Santa Barbara Channel around 5 p.m. on January 26. Five hours after the swim, he wound up on an oil platform with no boat.

Thompson was not fishing that day, but was clearing his mind after recently losing a close friend.

While returning, he stood by the side of the boat, but the water caught the ship. Thompson lost his balance and fell. Due to this he got stuck in the water and was watching his boat sailing. He tried to swim and catch but was unsuccessful.

Thompson, who was in cold water wearing just shorts and a T-shirt, told CNN affiliate KABC, “I thought to myself, Great, I’m going to die like this.” So he started swimming hoping to find safety.

Along the way, Thompson found a seal, which at the time looked like a spirit of hope. “The seal would go under the water, and he came up and pushed me,” Thompson told KABC. “Did it know, like oh, this man is in trouble; hey, keep going man?”

Eventually, around 10 p.m., Thompson found his way to the platform Gail’s oil.

TowBoatUS captain Carson Schevitz told CNN on Saturday that it is one of several platforms off the coast and lit up during the night.

Platform Gail is where Scott Thompson was finally able to find help.

“Luckily, he made it,” Schevitz said, “we have many other examples where people just don’t, and we never find them.”

“I finally made it to one of the pylons and just stuck to it for dear life,” Thompson said on Tobotas’ Instagram.

Shavitz said the stage crew helped him and called the US Coast Guard. According to KABC, he was then taken ashore and taken to a nearby hospital, where he was treated for hypothermia.

The next day, Thompson joined the Tobotas Ventura crew to fix his boat. The ship’s tracking equipment steered them to its exact location: stuck on a rocky beach.

“We mostly got it back in time to get it back in one piece,” Schevitz said. “He’ll be ready to get back on the water soon.”

Given the magnitude of the situation, Schewitz can’t believe how lucky Thompson was. “It’s pretty incredible that he was able to hang in there,” he said.

In an Instagram comment, Thompson appreciated and thanked the crew members who helped him. “Hopefully my story will teach a lesson to someone and no one will ever have to go through what I did,” he said.


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