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Fishermen Rescued After Staying Afloat Four Days In Raft Coast Guard Continues Search For Man Off California Coast

Sat., Dec. 21, 1996

Fred Fisher was lying in his bunk on his Charleston-based fishing boat, the El Pescador, when the net apparently hung up on the bottom and the boat began to roll.

“I yelled at the guy on watch to wake up the other guy and grab the survival suits and I would get the raft,” Fisher, 43, of Charleston, told The Associated Press by satellite phone Friday from on board the tanker Overseas Ohio. “I deployed the raft and the water took the suits out of our hands and that was that.”

Fisher and crewman John Burgess, 50, managed to get into the raft as the boat rolled over and sank. The last they saw of crewman Jason Cox, he was lying on top of his survival suit, but the current was so strong they couldn’t reach him.

After four days and five nights in the covered raft, Fisher and Burgess used a flashlight to signal the Overseas Ohio, which stopped and picked them up Thursday night. The ship was scheduled to make port in Long Beach, Calif., on Saturday.

Two Coast Guard helicopters and the 110-foot cutter Orcas continued to search for Cox on Friday, said spokeswoman Lt. Polly Bartz.

“I hope he got in his suit. I hope they find him,” Fisher said.

The El Pescador capsized at about midnight Sunday some 25 miles west of Crescent City, Calif.

Fisher was scheduled for a doctor’s appointment in Crescent City on Thursday morning, and when he failed to make that appointment, his wife, Kim Fisher, notified the Coast Guard.

Fisher said he and Burgess had food and water on the raft and spent their time paddling toward shore and telling each other lies to keep their spirits up.

They spotted another fishing boat soon after they capsized, but their two parachute flares weren’t seen by the crew. The next day they spotted two ships, but the crews didn’t spot the survivors’ hand-held flares. When they saw the Overseas Ohio, they signaled with a flashlight.

“We just kept an attitude,” Fisher said.

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