Woman stranded in the Gulf for hours rescued

CREATED Jan. 1, 2014

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FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. - The new year starting out with a chance rescue off the coast of Southwest Florida.

A woman plucked from chilly waters after being stranded for hours.

The rescuers who saved her are speaking first on FOX to reporter Kelli Stegeman.

“I saw a head in the water,” said Connie Irvin.

That was the beginning of what would turn into a rescue in the gulf for Irvin and her partner Dan Godfrey with the Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 9-10.

Hours before, as hundreds were just a short distance away getting ready to ring in 2014 on Fort Myers Beach, a woman was clinging to a channel marker in Matanzas Pass with the chance she wouldn’t even get to see the new year.

“Connie yells out ‘I think there's somebody in the water!’ So, as I look, Connie looks, and we wheel the boat towards what looks like a coconut.” Godfrey said.

The two then see an arm. Realization sets in that they are the only hope for this woman's survival.

“The woman was very weak,” said Irvin. “She had been in the water I believe almost 10 hours.”

Irvin and Godfrey were on their way into the Coast Guard office on Fort Myers Beach Wednesday morning around 7:30.

As members of the auxiliary, the volunteers were coming to help a short-handed station. Help they did. 

“Did you expect to be put to use like this today?” asked Stegeman.

“No, no,” replied Godfrey. “Like I said, it was a miracle.”

The Coast Guard believes the 31-year-old woman was out for a late New Year’s Eve swim.

“She told me that she had gone out swimming with a friend and that the current by Bowditch Point pulled her out so far that she couldn't get back in,” said Irvin.

Cut from clinging all night to the marker full of barnacles and oysters, the woman made one last attempt for shore.

“How much longer do you think she had left?” asked Stegeman.

“She was a very lucky person,” replied Godfrey. “She was shivering, she was in bad shape.”

The woman showed signs of hypothermia.

“We put her on the boat, covered her up brought her into the station,” Godfrey said.

It wasn't a moment too soon. 

“I would say that probably if we had not come by ,that within the next 20 minutes she would have been unable to swim,” Irvin said.

Emergency crews took the woman to a local hospital. She is expected to be ok. 

“I'd call it a great way to start off the new year,” Godfrey said with a smile.

Coast Guard officials say its reasons like this one that people, including tourists, should be aware of weather and tidal patterns so that they can avoid anything like this from happening to them.