Lake County boater found alive in Gulf of Mexico thanks rescuers, search party

Man located hours after Coast Guard found his empty boat in Gulf of Mexico


CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. – The Lake County boater who was found alive hours after he was reported missing and his empty boat was found in the Gulf of Mexico spoke out on Friday afternoon, thanking his rescuers.

Efstathios Moumouris, 51, was reported missing by his wife after he didn't return from his fishing trip out of the Fort Island boat ramp Wednesday.

Moumouris said at a news conference outside of the Seven River Regional Medical Center he wanted to thank "everyone involved in the search," especially the family who picked him up as he was treading water for at least 18 hours.

"I might have had four hours left in me, at the most. But I never did give up hope," he said, attributing his faith in God keeping him from giving up and thinking of his family.

Moumouris shared his account of his 20 hours in the water and how he got separated from his boat. Moumouris said his engine failed on the way back in from fishing and his bilge, which releases the water from inside the boat, also stopped working.

In a split second, Moumouris said he was in the water and floated away from his boat fast. He said he made the choice to go for his boat and let go of a life jacket, but wasn't able to get to the boat before winds shifted against him.

Moumouris said he used the move and the current to steer him in the right direction.

Search crews located his 16-foot boat nine miles west of the boat ramp at approximately 4 a.m. Thursday, without Moumouris aboard, officials said. Later Thursday afternoon, Moumouris was found alive bobbing in the water by Todd Hoy and his family when they were out scalloping.

Moumouris said at one point he had a shrimper come by 500 yards away but lost contact. Monmouris said he tried to stay afloat by swimming toward the east and then lying on his back to relax then swimming, then lying on his back again.

When asked how Moumouris felt, he replied he feels like he got "hit by a truck," saying he's sore and dehydrated from being in the water since Wednesday afternoon.

He said the biggest thing he wants to take from the experience is to have fun fishing but to make sure you have your life vest on.

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