76ºF

'Are we going to make it?' Family recounts Volusia boating rescue

4 boats caught in Sunday's storm

On Sunday afternoon, Ian Diaz, of Altamonte Springs, snapped pictures of his 1-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter on a boat they took out for the day in Volusia County.

The pictures show a blue sun-filled sky with puffy white clouds, but Diaz said less than 20 minutes after those photos were taken, the skies would turn grey and Diaz, his wife, kids, sister-in-law and brother-in-law would be caught in an afternoon storm he described as fast and ferocious.

"The storm just kept creeping up on us," Diaz said.

Ian Diaz and his brother-in-law on the boat Sunday 20 minutes before the storm.
Ian Diaz and his brother-in-law on the boat Sunday 20 minutes before the storm.

Within minutes, they were caught in it. The visibility was zero, as waves crashed from every direction and Diaz's brother-in-law's 21-foot long boat was taking on water.

"We really had a fear of it flipping because at one point it was at like a 90-degree angle and it  would just swing back and forth," Diaz said. "I looked at my wife and my sister-in-law and they had this face like, 'Are we going to make it?'"

Diaz said he googled the number for the Coast Guard and they tried to respond, but he said he couldn't even know which direction they would be coming from.

"We couldn't see where the beach was because the waves were crashing left and right into the boat," Diaz said.

With no control, the wind brought the boat to shore, where Volusia County Beach Safety lifeguards were waiting.

"They actually saw us two miles out and they were actually following us parallel to the beach," Diaz said. "The whole crew was amazing."

Video taken by a witness staying on New Smyrna Beach captured the moment Diaz and his family were rescued around 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon. 

The video shows rain pouring down as lifeguards rushed neck-deep into the rough waters to pull Diaz's family to shore. 

"Once I was able to get my son to the lifeguard I was like, 'At least we got them,'" Diaz said.

Monday, Diaz learned his family was one of four in Volusia County on boats forced to the shore in distress during the same storm.

Down the coast in Titusville, another boat with 11 people, including two children, capsized. They were all rescued and uninjured.

"I kind of felt relief that we weren't the only ones, we were just cruising the beach and the weather just changed," Diaz said. "At the end of the day we are all safe and we have life experience at this point but definitely it's scary."

Ian Diaz's 3-year-old daughter on the 21-foot boat Sunday 20 minutes before the storm.
Ian Diaz's 3-year-old daughter on the 21-foot boat Sunday 20 minutes before the storm.

About the Author: