East Memphis Couple Lost at Sea, Rescued in Gulf of Mexico

East Memphis Couple Lost at Sea, Rescued in Gulf of Mexico

The nightmare started yesterday, when Richard Smith and his girlfriend, Judy Brown, wrecked a jet ski off the Florida panhandle.
MEMPHIS, TN -- "I stayed calm and prayed." Those words from an East Memphis man who spent hours floating, lost at sea in the Gulf of Mexico.

The nightmare started yesterday, when Richard Smith and his girlfriend, Judy Brown, wrecked a jet ski off the Florida panhandle.

The couple set out to collect shells at a cape off shore. When they tried to return, their jet ski flipped over and they were unable to right it. Their fun adventure turned into a terrifying trip.

"We started holding on and kept figuring they'd come looking for us," Smith tells local 24 news. "They had, but we couldn't see them and they couldn't see us."

Smith and Brown were trapped, stranded in the water in the Gulf of Mexico. The two are on vacation in Mexico Beach, Florida this week.

"I'd say we were in the water right at 4 hours or so," Smith says. After about two hours, Judy decided to swim for help.

"I kept hanging on to the jet ski and about 30 or so minutes after she left I realized the sun was going down. I decided to try to swim for it and I couldn't make any progress. The current was running and I got caught up in the current."

"I just stayed calm. That's the only thing I could do is stay calm," Smith says. "I prayed all the way. I prayed for her safety."

Judy made it safely to shore. It took her more than an hour to swim there.

"I just kept floating," says Smith.

Family members had already alerted the coast guard the two were missing. Dozens of people were looking for them by boat and helicopter.

Rescuers say it was a miracle, but they spotted Smith floating in the dark water.

"As soon as they got close enough I started yelling and they heard me," says Smith.

Tuesday, less than 24 hours after the harrowing experience he's thanking all those involved. He credits help from above.

"When I got on the boat I told the young coast guardsmen that I prayed and he said 'Well God sent us to you.' And I said well I thank you I'm glad he did," Smith laughs.

Both he and Judy were both wearing life jackets. They're just fine today and are focused on enjoying the rest of their vacation.

It was Smith's first time riding a jet ski.

Besides praying, he says one of the things he thought about while floating in the sea was if he'd ever ride a jet ski again. He decided probably so, though it won't be anytime soon.
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