DELAND, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - A man who spent roughly 20 hours in Lake Monroe clinging to a capsized boat is sharing his story of survival.
“I just drifted with it – daylight came and I kept on drifting,” Freddie Stills said about the ordeal.
The 72-year-old says he and a longtime friend were fishing on Lake Monroe last Monday, when the water started getting rough.
“A bigger wave came and it just filled the back of the boat up and it just went down,” Stills explained.
The grandfather and Vietnam War veteran says he grabbed onto the sinking boat and his friend ended up in the water with a life jacket on.
“Then he started drifting off and he told me to stay with the boat,” Stills explained.
Stills wouldn’t see his friend again. Deputies say they later recovered the body of 73-year-old Earnest Jones from the lake.
“I miss him,” he said during an emotional interview.
Stills, held on to the boat for hours. He says he tied a rope to the boat so he could sit on it like a swing.
“Nightfall came, I’d nod off. But I had the rope, I held on to the rope, and bob like that,” Stills explained.
Then, Tuesday morning, he heard the sound of a helicopter overhead. Then a boat was at his side. Rescuers, who he later saw at the hospital, pulled him out of the water.
“I done prayed, and called on the Father and He answered,” Stills said.
Stills says he was hospitalized for five days after the ordeal. He’s still dealing with the loss of friend. He says he and Jones both served in Vietnam and have known each other since the 60s.