HUNTINGTON BEACH (CBSLA.com) — It was strange sight several miles south of Huntington Harbor: a 14-foot dinghy circling in the water, with no one on board.
The Coast Guard started searching for man overboard, and in this case, it was Tony White.
“We were obviously concerned because there was no driver in the water or near the boat,” the Coast Guard said.
White explained what happened.
“My hat blew off. And I instinctually reached to grab it,” he said. “Normally, might not have been a big deal but on this particular boat it always wants to turn to the right when you’re going fast, and when I let go of the wheel, did six revolutions to the right and boat made 90 degree turn and went flying over the side.”
With the dinghy circling out of control and no way to get back on safely, White swam about two and a half hours trying to get to a buoy, and by then was 2 miles from his boat.
“At first, I was swimming with it thinking I could somehow action movie climb in and grab it but realized that was a pretty stupid idea but realized I was going to get injured by prop or have it run me over,” White said.
Survival mode kicked it. He kicked off his flip-flops and used them as fins.
White was working when he went overboard and lost an underwater drone.
But at least he didn’t lose his life, with Coast Guard coming to the rescue.
“When he said thank God you guys saw me, it’s literally like finding a needle in a haystack in the ocean,” the Coast Guard said.
“For the first time in my life, it was probably the closest to near-death experience I’ve had,” White said. “You’re out there, and it’s 155 feet deep and for nothing for miles.”
White since has changed his policy and not going to work alone in the ocean again and plans to wear a life jacket or bright clothes as recommended by the Coast Guard.