Stuart fishermen survive boat sinking off Fort Pierce coast after being rescued by Coast Guard

FORT PIERCE, Fla. -- Max Hager is home in Stuart, with his wife and two young daughters.

But for a while Wednesday morning, the avid fisherman didn't know if he would live through what he thought would be a typical fishing trip.

Hager said the boat he was in with a few buddies began filling up with water about 20 miles east of the St. Lucie Inlet. With quick thinking, he put in a mayday call to the Fort Pierce Coast Guard station.

The Coast Guard officers received the distress call around 10:20 a.m., and sent a rescue crew, led by Petty officer 2nd class Robert Brodhead. 

Brodhead said by the time they got to where the boat had been, a strong current had pushed the stranded fishermen four miles away.  

"Whenever you lose communication with somebody taking on water in any kind of emergency, it kind of raises hairs," said Brodhead. "We were preparing for the worst at that point."

Hager said he was mentally preparing himself, as well.

"I was thinking about my wife and kids," he reflected. "I thought, I hope my life insurance is paid up."

Brodhead said when he and his fellow rescuers were out looking for the fishermen, it was more than an hour before he boosted the gain on his Coast Guard's boat radar. Then he said they finally picked up an image.

"We could see something very faint, about three miles out," said Brodhead. "At that time, we started making way, started seeing some color and debris in the water, and it turned out to be the people in their lifejackets."

Hager said he's grateful to be back at home, with a new appreciation for dry land, and his family.

"Gave my wife a hug and a kiss," said Hager. "It was definitely intense, it was definitely very scary."

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