Coast Guard records released Monday tell a harrowing tale of the two NFL players and their friends who were lost at sea off the west coast of Florida last month.
The 23-page report, released to the Associated Press via a Freedom of Information Act request, provides the lone survivor’s account of what happened in what was likely the last moments in the lives of the four fishing buddies.
The foursome had taken their 21-foot Everglades boat about 70 miles to fish for amberjack on Feb. 28. Onboard were Nick Schuyler, a former University of South Florida player, who ultimately survived the ordeal; Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper, free-agent NFL defensive lineman; Corey Smith, who played for the Detroit Lions last season; and former University of South Florida player William Bleakley.
The report documents two conversations Schuyler had with Coast Guard officials. He told them that shortly after getting to a fishing spot, their anchor got stuck in a coral reef, AP reports. As they tried to free it, Schuyler told them, water filled the boat and it capsized. They were flung into the cold water and managed to grab their life vests. They held on for four hours, but three of them eventually gave up, Schuyler said.
“Their resolve to hold on appears to have grown weaker and the effects of hypothermia were likely setting in,” AP reports. “… One of the men “freaked out” and took off his life vest and disappeared that night. Another one of the men started getting unruly and throwing punches later. …[T]he second man also took off his life jacket, dove under the water and was never seen again. The third man thought he saw land nearly two days after the boat capsized and decided to swim for it. … [T]hat man said his life jacket was too tight and he took it off.”
Rescue team members found three life jackets, one on Schuyler, another near the boat and a third underneath it, according to AP. The bodies of the three who disappeared have not been found.