LLOYD HARBOR, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A man was saved in a dramatic Long Island Sound rescue.
He spent 17 hours clinging to a rock, after his kayak sank.
Now hooked up to IVs in a Norwalk Hospital, 56-year-old Michael Diaz offered a lifetime of thanks to the fisherman, fireman, and Marine Bureau of Suffolk who ultimately saved him in a harrowing rescue below a lighthouse.
As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, police said he was adrift for 17 hours.
“Wondering how long do I have, how long can I be in here?” he said. “In Long Island Sound, you can’t swim to shore, the tide brings you back out.”
Diaz — an experienced kayaker and fisherman — left Lloyd Harbor and Caumsett State park well before violent weather moved in.
He tried to paddle back.
“Really bad waves. The worst I’ve ever seen in the sound, an I am in the swells, boats can’t see me,” he said.
His cell phone sunk, his kayak — a gift from his family — flipped, leaving him with his life jacket.
“After the kayak ultimately sank, it was the PFD (personal flotation device) that literally saved my life,” he said.
It was turning dark.
His frantic wife and sons rushed to where Diaz launched his kayak. They spotted some swimmers in wet suits. His car was locked and empty.
They called 911.
“My son, my older son is an eagle scout. They go give you training what to do in an emergency, how to keep your head and evaluate the situation,” he said.
Police surmise Diaz treaded water all night love, moving with the tides — east to Port Jefferson, back to Lloyd Harbor, and north across the sound towards Stamford and then Norwalk.
“I knew dehydration and eventually hypothermia, you hear the clock ticking. What got me through the night, light will come,” he said.
Eventually with daylight, he spotted a Norwalk lighthouse two miles int he distance.
“So that last hour and a half, put my head down and swam to the lighthouse,” he said.
A fishing boat spotted him, and called in Suffolk’s marine unit.
Diaz, nearly delirious, learned not only his family, but dozens in the community spent the night searching for him.
“To find out all of these strangers pitching in gives you good vibes about the world,” he said.