A man who fell off his boat in the ocean about five miles off Long Beach was rescued Thursday by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and U.S. Coast Guard personnel.
The Coast Guard received a report about 8:30 a.m. of a small boat with no one operating it moving in circles several miles off the coast of Long Beach, according to the Sheriff's Information Bureau.
The Coast Guard coordinated a rescue response with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which dispatched a helicopter.
Top news of the day
Tony White, a 28-year-old aquatic culture engineer, was heading to the Catalina Sea Ranch when the accident occurred.
"I was driving along, and my hat blew off and I made the mistake of reaching for it, which meant I let go og the steering wheel," White said.
It was then when he was thrown off the boat and into the open sea.
His boat revved off with his life jacket inside, and the running motor made it dangerous for him to climb back on.
The boater discovered a clever way of swimming efficiently in the open water -- using his flip flops.
"It occurred to me they weren't really helping my kick much so I put them on my hands and that made swimming along and treading water much easier," White said.
After swimming towards the Catalina Sea Ranch for about a mile, officials spotted White and were able to rescue him.
The helicopter crew soon located the boat and, using additional coordinates from the Coast Guard, found the boater treading water about five miles out, officials said.
"An LASD paramedic rescue deputy sheriff jumped in the water from Air Rescue 5," according to a department statement. "He ensured the victim's head remained above water until a Coast Guard boat arrived on scene."
Officials said he was fortunate to be found.
"This guy was incredibly lucky in my opinion," Jim Moss, LA County Sheriff's Deputy Paramedic said. "It's so difficult to find somebody out in the middle of ocean; it's like a needle in a haystack."
White had no injuries from the accident, but did lose one of his research drones in the sea.