Rescue at Sea: Boat sinks off Murrells Inlet, eight rescued

Photo Courtesy: Dave Murray

Eight people were rescued from the ocean after their boat sank about 9am Sunday near Paradise Reef, which locals call Three Mile Reef.

Two of those rescued were Gerald Aldridge and his son-in-law Ben Graham. "I began to notice that we were taking on water and I began to bail the water out," Aldridge explained.

But, the effort was in vain as water kept spilling into the boat too fast to get it out. Alrdridge said after the boat started to take on water, it sank and it all happened within just ten minutes. "The engines had submerged, and we couldn't start the boat, so we just began to make preparations to go overboard."

Graham said they had just seconds to grab all the life jackets they could before watching their boat sink. "Once the boat went underwater, I went underwater, and we saw everybody pop up, and we just started counting heads to make sure everybody was ok. That's what I started doing just to make sure we had all eight."

Graham, who is an Army veteran and medic, did what he knew best, keeping everyone calm and close together. They were forced to tread water for nearly an hour while waves crashed relentlessly over them.

"The waves were eight to ten feet and swimming just wasn't going to work. Even with life jackets on, you really couldn't swim, so we all latched together so that we were a bigger marker for somebody to find us."

Finally someone did. "Some fishermen were nearby, and we began to yell for them and they came over and began to pick us up," Aldridge explained.

Those fishermen were soon joined by rescue crews and everyone was brought to shore. Alridge's brother Jerry wasn't able to get a life jacket before abandoning ship. He was taken to the hospital after taking in too much water.

After a day like this one, Aldridge and Graham know they're lucky to be alive. "Very happy everybody is ok. The main thing is we're all family so you know if you lose one, you've pretty much lost everybody."

The U.S. Coast Guard, Georgetown County Sheriff's Office and the Department of Natural Resources all activated their water rescue teams.

We're still waiting to learn what caused the boat to sink.