Dylan Gowan is expected to make a full recovery after spending a night clinging for his life at sea

By Maria Coder
August 13, 2015 02:20 PM

A New Jersey teenager is safe after spending 12 hours clinging to a buoy off the coast of Sandy Hook, New Jersey, when the jet ski he was riding sank and stranded him at sea.

Dylan Gowan, 19, says a friend had asked him to drive the watercraft from Brooklyn, New York, back to New Jersey on Tuesday. All was fine until a large wave knocked him off. Gowan got back on and drove four more miles before he realized something was terribly wrong and the jet ski was taking on water News 12 New Jersey reports.

In a hurry, the Highlands teen spotted a nearby light tower and clung to it overnight.

Around 11 p.m., his family reported him missing and a massive search began, according to NBC.

Gowan says he could see Coast Guard boats and helicopters searching for him but it was so dark they couldn’t see his attempts to get their attention.

“I was trying to flag down the helicopters and the boat,” he told reporters at a news conference at the Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, News 12 reports. “I was trying to send any signal that I was there; they couldn’t see me or hear me. Many boats passed me that were tankers and other things. I was yelling at them but they couldn’t hear me, it was too far.”

“I don’t know what it was but I saw four or five shooting stars that night and I prayed and wished on every single one and I just hoped someone would find me,” he told NBC. “I’ve got more to live for than dying on a buoy.”

At daybreak on Wednesday, Gowan made a swim toward the shore. About 30 minutes into his swim, he saw rescue crews once more.

“I started waving my arms and making as much splashing as possible,” says Gowan. “They started to head right for me. I saw three Coast Guard officers and they helped me onto the boat. I basically broke down into tears because I was so happy I was coming home.”

Gowan, who is a trained EMT worker himself, is in stable condition. He’s was treated for dehydration and the onset of hypothermia at the hospital but is expected to go home on Thursday.