In a scene right out of the movie thriller "Open Water," Capt. Robert Hill came across the two divers 21 miles out in the Gulf after their boat drifted away from them.
DESTIN — A boat captain hurrying back to weigh a big day's catch took a few moments to rescue two divers he spotted floating 21 miles offshore.
The divers had lost sight of their boat, which had broken down and drifted more than a mile away. It was 30 minutes before dark and 90 before the scales closed for the day at the Destin Fishing Rodeo.
"There was nobody else coming in," said Robert Hill, captain of the Twilight. "Out in the middle of nowhere, no other boats around, just a scuba diver out there in the water.
"If I hadn't seen them, they would have spent the night floating."
One of the divers was waving a red flag on a wand, which Hill noticed out of the corner of his eye. As he approached the diver, another one surfaced. There were 3- to 4-foot waves at the time.
"I scooped them up pretty quickly," he said. "I pretty much feel like I saved their lives."
He brought them to their boat, which had two other young men on it. He didn't get their names, but speculated that they were young airmen. They had been catching lionfish.
"Their boat was still drifting," he said. "Usually when it dies, you throw your anchor out right away. Either they didn't have one or they didn't drop an anchor."
Another boat captain, Justin Destin of the Un Reel, had broken a propeller earlier in the day and was in the area. Hill called Destin and asked him to help the stranded boaters, so he could get his catch to the scale on time.
"He was nice enough to come over there and tow that boat for them," he said, adding that he would have done it if Destin hadn't been in the area.
"When you become a captain, the No. 1 rule is you never leave anybody stranded in any circumstance," he said. "You always bring them back."
Destin said he towed the boat for about an hour before the occupants got it running again.
"It's just absolutely pure luck," Hill said. "I don't know if we saved their lives. But we saved a lot of effort to find those poor guys."