Lost teens survive 6 days at sea on salt water and jellyfish

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Posted by on May 02, 2005 at 08:00:58:

New: Sharks surrounded the pair, who were sunburned and dehydrated. At night, they used a single wet suit to keep warm.

SOUTHPORT, N.C. - Adrift on a sailboat without food or fresh water for six days, 17-year-old Josh Long and a friend survived on sea water, raw jellyfish -- and faith.

"We just prayed every day. We prayed for our families, prayed for our lives, prayed to get home. God answered us," Long said during a television interview today. "I knew he wouldn't let us suffer for no reason."

Long and his best friend, 15-year-old Troy Driscoll were spotted Saturday about seven miles off Cape Fear -- more than 100 miles from where they had begun their journey off Sullivans Island, S.C., on April 24.

The boys were sunburned, dehydrated and exhausted, but otherwise in pretty good shape. They were recovering today at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, S.C.

The pair quenched their thirst with sea water and slipped into the ocean to cool off, but sharks chased them back onto the boat. At night, they used a single wet suit to keep warm.

The teenagers had set out shark fishing on a 14-foot Sunfish during a blustery day. The National Weather Service had warned small boats to stay off the water and the pair realized they were in trouble almost immediately. They tried to swim to shore, pulling the boat along with them.

They yelled to people on the beach, but weren't heard. Within hours, the boys were out to sea. The pair lost their tackle the second day.

"We didn't even get a chance to fish," Driscoll told The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C. "After 20 minutes we knew we were in for a long trip. We knew we were in trouble."

At one point, the teens thought they had drifted across the Atlantic Ocean and were close to Africa. Instead, they were about 111 miles north -- well outside the Coast Guard's search grid -- but close enough to spot a fishing boat.

The only thing Driscoll ate was jellyfish; Long feared the jellyfish would make him sick and that he'd lose his bearings. He gargled saltwater a couple of times a day to keep his throat from drying out.

"What we have is an absolutely miraculous story of survival that's going to be studied for years to come," said Richard Goerling, Long's uncle. "I think those two boys have a book to write."

After they were plucked from the water by fishermen aboard the Renegade, the teens were transferred to a Coast Guard vessel where they got medical attention and made a much anticipated phone call.

Tony Driscoll, Troy's father, didn't recognize the phone number calling his cell phone, but he knew the voice.

"He started screaming 'It's my boy, it's my boy! He's been found, he's been found!'" family friend Kay Withrock said.

"The officials were trying to tell us to expect for bodies to float up between seven and 10 days. We knew there was room for a miracle and this is our miracle," Josh's dad, Eddie Long, told "The Early Show."

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