First responder turns victim, lost at sea after boat engine failure

Survivor describes one item that saved his life

CITRUS COUNTY, Fla. - A first responder in need of rescue himself after engine failures leaves him and his friend lost at sea. A chilling sound turns a fishing trip into a horrible nightmare.

“It was just ‘wheeh, wheeh, wheeh!” described Don Lohr.

That’s the sound of an engine breaking down. Now, the volunteer firefighter and EMT was left drifting deeper into the gulf. The waters are rough. His phone has no signal.
Despite this, he taps into that calm used every time he answers a call and turns to his friend for a radio.

“But he says, 'I have no radio' and at that point I was like ‘oh boy this isn’t good'” said Lohr.

On land, his wife knew something wasn't right. She left him a desperate voicemail pleading for him to call her back. But none of her messages reach him. What’s worse their boat starts taking on water and the sun is setting.

“We were the victims right there," he said, "We were up the preverbial creek without a paddle almost literally.”
    
They used up all the flares and tried every way to get help from fishing boats in the distance.

“Rescue whistle, life vest, tying shirts to fishing poles, waving them, they are just not seeing us," he said of their efforts.

They spent a cold night wondering if this was it. Until at daybreak Lohr suddenly recognized another sound. This one bringing him warm relief. It was a Coast Guard plane far away from the boat. Lohr moved quickly. He asked his friend for a mirror and started waving it into the air aiming it at the sun sending a distress signal.

“He came over tipped his wing, at that point we kinda knew we were going to be ok," cried Lohr.

The rescue pilot signaled boats in the area to come help the two men. A private boat got their first. The good samaritans marking the end of a treacherous 24-hours. The boat ended up 40 miles West of the Magic Manatee Marina in Homosassa Springs from where they launched. Lohr ultimately exhausted but immensely thankful to step on land again.

 

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