Loreto Miles Moscoso III, a 2014 graduate of the Bachelor of Science in Marine Transportation from JBLCF Bacolod fell from his vessel while unlashing a reefer. He fell in a shark-infested area in Port Everglades, Florida and remained in the water for 4hours trying his way to swim to the shore. Perseverance and Godliness have made him survive.
Read his story below.
On June 6, 2018, I was on duty at 0400-0800H. Locally, we call my shift as ‘’Kwatro otso’’. My vessel was Vega Sagittarius, a 456-foot Liberian-flagged container ship and at that time was moored at Port Everglades, Florida, USA, waiting for discharge operation.
While we wait for the pilot to board, at around 0500H, our Chief Officer ordered me to go down to un-lash the cargo containers so that it will be ready for discharging. I obliged, went down the ship’s deck and assisted the boatswain in preparing the pilot ladder. After, he instructed me to help my crew companion (DTRN) to un-lash the remaining cargoes in bay 24 and to put back the rubber carpets we took the day before as we de-rusted the platforms. Those platforms will hold the short bar and long bar after unlashing the cargo.
As I was arranging the lashing materials, our boatswain went to the forward of the ship to open the bow thruster claps and unlash the anchor. He then returned to bay 24 to help us. He along with a deck trainee went to the port side of the containers not too far from where I was, I think around 6-8meters as I still can see the two of them. There was light but the area is not well illuminated. In bay 24, the cargo was a reefer. There was noise coming from its fan. During that time, I went to the starboard side (on the sea side) instead to unlash the cargo. As I was positioning. I started to unloosen the turning buckle.
I stepped back for me to be able to get the right amount of force without realizing that I have nothing to step on. As I fell, I tried to hold on to whatever I can but there was none. I fell with my right back hitting something hard then splashed in the water. It took me a few seconds to swim above the surface of the water as my fall was hard near the ship’s stern. I immediately swam away from the ship thinking that I will be sucked by the propeller. I shouted “Man over board” for so many times but nobody heard me. I knew the fan noise of the reefer drowned my voice. I was already in panic at that time and I drank a lot of seawater plus my back hurts. I realized later that I have a spinal cord fracture.
I thought at that time that it was already my end. I was in pain, was drinking lots of salty water and my vessel was sailing away from me. It was so painful to realize that nobody might have known I have fallen. I was in panic and was about to drown. I almost gave up. Before it happened, I saw light that seemed to be pulling me to the surface. At that moment, I know God was with me. He seemed to be helping me up to rise to the surface to breath. I told myself, I have to fight back and swim back up to the surface, I might have a chance. I rapidly took off my coverall all and safety shoes because they added weight.
The only bad thing is I didn’t hold on to my radio for it was with my cover all. I could have called the vessel if I had that radio. My cover all with the radio floated away from me. I was no longer thinking. What was left in my body was my sleeveless and shorts. I was alone now, on my own. I didn’t have a floating device which I could hang on. What I have was my strength and my swimming skill. I decided to float and just relax above the water. Then I looked around, I can see the land and the buildings far away so I decided to swim. I saw a couple of boats and yacht passed by. I shouted and waved my hand but nobody saw or heard me. I drank lots of water by shouting, but i caught nobody’s attention.
I believed in my hear that help will come so I didn’t give up. If I just continue floating, I will die. So I’d rather try my best and swim towards land. What really guided me was prayer. I was praying as I swam. I don’t know how far I have already swam when I saw a huge shark. It was twice bigger than me. I was so scared. Yes, I was swimming for an hour already but I never expected to see a shark. So what I did I remained calm and continued to swim. While I’m swimming, it circled around me like it was thinking what the hell is this thing? I knew however that if it eats me, there is nothing I can do but feed its belly.
After a few minutes, it swam away. However, it returned, circled me again. Despite the fear, I remained calm and continued praying. Then it swam away and then came back, circled me and swam ahead of me. Then it swam away and never came back. Still I didn’t lose chance. I swam and swam not knowing the hours ran so fast. I didn’t have a watch in my arm. Then, I saw a helicopter heading to me. I looked up and knew, I will survive. It was there to rescue me. I saw a man onboard the helicopter pointing to something. When I looked at it, it was the US Coast Guard rescue boat. It was then that I felt relief. I thanked God endlessly for this second life. When the coast guard reached my hand and pulled me to safety, I cried so hard. I cannot imagine how I did it.
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The coast guard told me that I swam about 4 miles from where I fell until they picked me up. I stayed in the ocean for 4 hours without life vest or any flotation device. “What?” I was speechless. Even the coast guard was really amazed on what I did to survive in the ocean that long. After that, they checked my BP and conducted other tests while I was on the boat. My blood pressure was low and I was dehydrated. They attached me to a dextrose to replace lost fluids.
The coast guard said ‘’You were a MIRACLE son!’’ with the smile on their faces. I know I am. I really thank them for saving my life. I know that Father God used them as an instrument. When we reached the port they directly placed me in the ambulance and sent me to the hospital. Tests and examinations were done to me in the emergency room. The nurses and doctors never left me alone. They did all their best to make sure that I will be fine.
Accident may happen to a seafarer or anybody anytime. We have to make “SAFETY FIRST” our mantra. Not all the learnings in school will make us survive circumstances. It should be coupled with the right values and attitude. All I did was to be alert, had presence of mind. Your body is in motion so you need your mind to focus in order for you to think. Persevere, never lose hope. Lastly have that strongest faith in God for it is His will which will be done. Never ever forget to Pray. Prayer will always be your biggest weapon against the odds and uncertainties.