"I would see the moon and I could see the waves rolling and it would just crash over us every maybe five minutes," said Le.
Three childhood friends survived a scary ordeal at the sea, thanks to a split second of the phone network. Three friends, Phong Le, 41, Son Nguyen, 43, and Luan Nguyen, 40, had gone fishing for red snappers on Saturday morning near Empire in Louisana. The problem began when the wind became stronger, both wind and the waves started to lash against the motorboat they were using. According to PEOPLE, the motorboat began sinking as water entered the deck of the boat which was tied to an oil rig. Le told his friends to put on their life vests. He is the boat's owner and a fisherman, he also works as a realtor and real estate developer in Harvey, Louisiana.
As their boat began to sink, Son and Le, held two 90-quart RTIC ice chests and tied them together with Le's bandana to create a makeshift floating device. Unfortunately by 10 am, Le's boat had completely drowned and they were left with the ice chests. "The wind was way too strong," Le said. "It was pushing us so fast that we couldn't even swim back to the oil rig." They were "literally being washed away at sea," added Le.
They shared that fish nipped them and jellyfish of all sizes stung their hands, legs, and back. They were stung every 15-20 minutes. "You're trying to kick them off, but it kind of grabs at you," said Luan. "It was pretty much like a bunch of hypodermic needles just sticking at one time," added Le. The whole day, all three of them tried calling 911 but due to no signal, they couldn't get through. As the night fell, the wind became stronger. "The wind was howling, it was blowing constantly 20 miles per hour," said Le.
"I would see the moon, and the moon would disappear," he recalled. "I would see the moon and I could see the waves rolling and it would just crash over us every maybe five minutes," said Le. They were tied to the coolers and were able to rest in between and not keep floating. But the constant waves and wind hitting them were tiring. "We pretty much just hunkered down with each other, held each other pretty close, and then just tried to stay warm," said Le. "The water was warm, but anything that your body was above the water was freezing."
Around 2 am, a Coast Guard plane flew above them. Le used his iPhone 13 and turned on his flash and blinked three times as an SOS. Sadly, it didn't work. "I kept doing it, but the moon was so bright, there was no way they could see us," Le said. Water began to get into Luan's life vest and he started to slip into the sea. Le even tried giving him an extra life vest but it didn't help. Thankfully, in the morning, they saw a shrimp boat in the distance and started to swim toward that. But couldn't reach anywhere near it. "I made a decision and told them that we had one shot. I'm going to just leave the pack and swim toward the shrimp boat by myself," said Le.
"And then next thing he's gone, and that's the last we see him," said Luan. "We don't see him after that." Then the next problem happened. "Out of nowhere this shark attacks," Luan said. "I reacted by just trying to push him off, but that didn't work. So I just took my thumb then I just jammed it in his eyes and it took off." The shark had ripped through the life vest leaving him with only the ice chests. Soon, one of his ice chests began to fall apart. Meanwhile, Le was left with about a mile to reach the shrimp boat, when it left in the opposite direction.
Le just had just 5 percent battery left in his phone, he took a quick screenshot of his location. Suddenly, his phone network came and he was flooded with messages. "I had just that split second to have some kind of signal," he said. The last message he received was from a friend called Van To. He told him that their boat had sunk and they are floating at sea, he shared the location with him.
"I saw he received [it]," said Le. "And then my phone cut off." Van forwarded the message to his fiancee, who then shared it with the Coast Guard. The agency was already searching for them since a family member had alerted them about their missing. They zeroed in on the location and rescued two of them on a boat and Le through a helicopter.
If you're looking for something to bring a smile to your face, we've got you covered!— U.S. Coast Guard (@USCG) October 12, 2022
Watch the incredible reunion between several rescued mariners and their Coast Guard life-saving crew. 🚁 🆘https://t.co/DN8Dmz0w18#semperparatus #searchandrescue pic.twitter.com/VscxMTVNme
They were treated for their injuries and then dropped off at University Medical Center New Orleans. By 1 am, on Monday, they were discharged from the hospital and they reached their homes.
On Tuesday, Le and Luan went to New York to meet Coast Guard Seaman Andrew Stone, he had pulled Luan out of the water. It was an emotional moment for him. Lee is also grateful to them. "Oh man, I owe them my life," says Le. "I mean, if it wasn't for them we would've never been found."
Once they recover, they will also be meeting the 30 Coast Guard personnel who were involved in their search and rescue. "I want to meet all of them," said Luan. "There are no words that you can say to show your appreciation for something like that," he said.
Cover Image Source: YouTube | TODAY