Vacationing Florida deputies save diver lost off Florida Keys

David Woolf and Eric Thoresen are both Lieutenants at the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. They’ve been friends for 20 years.

Every Summer, their families take a vacation fishing in Key West. They’re normally going after Mahi and Snapper.

FOX 35 News asked what their most exciting catch has been so far.

"We caught a person!" answered Lt. David Woolf.

Lt. Woolf elaborated, this year’s fishing expedition was a bit more eventful than previous trips.

"We’re just starting to travel out. We’re probably about six miles offshore. And I just saw some movement to the distance on the right."

Lieutenant Woolf thought it was a bird, and Lieutenant Thoresen thought it was a buoy. It was a diver, desperately waving his flippers for help. 

"It was definitely unusual to see a diver by himself that far out. You almost didn’t even suspect that he got lost from his boat, because the boats were so far away," said Lt. Thoresen.

The current had carried the diver over two miles from his boat. He told the deputies he’d been trying to flag people down for over half an hour, and multiple other boats had driven right past him.

"I would think that would feel like an eternity to somebody," said Lt. Thoresen.


"And you can’t see a whole lot of anything, except for waves," added Lt. Woolf.

The deputies called the Coast Guard. Turns out, they’d already been notified about a missing diver. FOX 35 asked what the Coast Guard’s advice would be for anyone else who might find themselves in this situation.

"Prevention is the key," answered Coast Guard Recreational Boating Specialist Scott Sczcepaniak. He explained divers and boaters have to be situationally aware. Divers should always stay close to their boats. 

Thankfully, this lost diver came across a miracle. His rescuers said his waving his flipper around helped them to spot him. The off-duty deputies got him safely back to his boat, where his friends apparently made fun of him mercilessly. 

"We were pretty happy to see them reunited again. It’s not every day something like that happens," said Lt. Thoresen.

FOX 35 asked the U.S. Coast Guard how many divers have been rescued in that area this year. We'll update this article if we get a response.