Coast Guard

Man Stranded in Ocean During Raging Storm Says Love for Family Helped Him Survive

A fisherman who was thrown overboard and was forced to tread water for about four hours amid a powerful storm off New Jersey’s coast Saturday night said the love for his wife and two young sons kept him alive.

"I just couldn't picture the next day somebody coming to tell them I'm not going to be home anymore because I knew it would ruin their lives," Damian Sexton told NBC10 in Philadelphia as he fought back tears. "And I love them too much for that."

Sexton, 45, was on a 40-foot fishing boat with his friend about 44 miles east of Cape May, New Jersey, when they got caught in a storm. 

"The boat went this way and I fell right out," Sexton said. "It was a big thunderstorm, giant bolts of lightning, just waves that were huge."

Sexton's friend, who was still on the boat, made a mayday call to the Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay but was unable to stop the vessel. 

"I didn't have a chance to show him how to operate the autopilot," Sexton said. "So I think that's the reason the boat kept going."

Sexton, who didn't have a life jacket on, was left stranded in the middle of the storm. Desperate to survive and make it home to his family, Sexton started swimming, following a container ship for about ten miles. 

"The wind was so bad," Sexton said. "It was blowing me back or it was blowing the ship away from me."

Unable to feel his legs and his arms cramping up, Sexton admits he began to feel hopeless. 

"I coughed water out of my lungs so many times and all I would have had to do was take one breath of water and it was over," he said.

Fortunately for Sexton, help was on the way. The Coast Guard launched a C-130 "Hercules" aircraft from the Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Air Station and an MH-65 "Dolphin" helicopter from the Atlantic City Air Station. A boat crew from the Cape May Coast Guard Station joined in the rescue effort as well. They located Sexton around 2 a.m. Sunday and threw him a life preserver so he could get back onto his boat until the rescue crew could take him for medical help. 

When the helicopter arrived, crews hoisted Sexton aboard and flew him to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City for treatment. The incredible rescue was captured on video.

"He was wrapped up on a blanket on his couch and was just seizing and convulsing," said Christopher Lynch, the Coast Guard member in the video who grabbed Sexton. 

Sexton is alive and doing well, thanks to the heroic efforts of the Coast Guard as well as the love of his family that inspired him to fight for his survival. 

"I love him more than anything," Sexton's wife Robin told NBC10. "I mean that with every ounce of my body."

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