A California boater who ended up falling into the open ocean in the middle of the night believed he was going to die until he managed to swim to a nearby oil rig thanks to the help of a seal who pushed him along.
Scott Thompson accidentally toppled overboard from his boat while out in the Pacific, several miles off the coast of Santa Barbara earlier this month.
Wearing only shorts and a t-shirt, he was convinced that he was done for as his motor boat continued to sail on without him.
Scott Thompson, pictured, fell into the Santa Barbara Channel off the coast of California He was only wearing shorts and a T-shirt at the time, in the middle of the night
As his boat sped away he had the choice to either swim to land or a nearby oil rig, pictured
‘I thought to myself, great, this is how I’m going to die,’ Thompson said to ABC7. ‘Today is the day I’m going to die.’
Thompson was in an area known as the Santa Barbara Channel, in between the California coast and the Channel Islands as he began to swim after his boat but it was futile.
‘That’s when I realized, like, okay, “we got problems”,’ Thompson said. ‘And I just started swimming as hard as I could, towards the boat, and it really didn’t take too long to realize like, it’s getting farther, I’m not getting closer.’
Thompson, who claims to be a strong swimmer and experienced diver said he felt the chill of the ocean setting in. It was pitch black with not even the light of the moon to guide him.
Thompson said he was helped by a life-saving seal that nudged him along (file photo, not actual helpful seal)
‘The panic set in it was like, wow, this is a pretty heavy situation,’ he said.
Knowing land was too far away for him to make it alive, Thompson said that he spotted a nearby oil rig. He set off for that, pushed on by thoughts of his family for whom he was determined to survive.
‘Just keep swimming, you gotta get home to your family.’ Thompson told himself.
‘I was devastating myself, through my mind, just picturing my girls and my son growing up without me, and my wife, you know, not having a husband to support her…I wasn’t thinking about sharks or anything like that, until I hear this splash?’
The splash was a seal who Thompson described as ‘an angel’ that came to help him.
‘It was a medium sized harbor seal,’ Thompson said. ‘The seal would go under water and he came up and nudged me. like a dog comes up and nudges your leg.
‘Even putting on a wet suit, being prepared, getting in that water, and swimming to the platform was horrendous,’ Channel Watch Marine Paul Amaral, said. ‘I can’t imagine being in the water with shorts and a T-shirt at night. There was no moon, I mean it was pitch black.’
‘Did it know, like hey, this human is in trouble, hey keep going dude?’ he pondered.
After being pushed along by the seal, Thompson said he felt motivated to reach the oil platform
‘You gotta make it to the platform because you have no choice,’ Thompson said.
It took him five hours to reach the rig which was still closer than if he’d have chosen to swim back to land.
‘It started getting brighter and I’m just like, I’m crying. And I’m like, shouting at the sky.’ he said.
Thompson said the nudging from the seal felt like ‘an angel summoned to help him.’ (file pic)
Crews onboard the rig heard him and were able to give him medical attention while the Coast Guard was summoned.
Thompson was airlifted to hospital and treated for hypothermia. His boat was ultimately recovered by a tow boat crew.
‘Even putting on a wet suit, being prepared, getting in that water, and swimming to the platform was horrendous,’ Channel Watch Marine Paul Amaral said.
‘I can’t imagine being in the water with shorts and a T-shirt at night. There was no moon, I mean it was pitch black.’