Boaters Whose Ship Sank in Shark-Infested Waters Have Emotional Reunion with Coast Guard Rescuers

Phong Le, one of the victims, said he managed to send a text message with their coordinates to a friend, who then alerted the Coast Guard

Two men who survived more than 24 hours in the Gulf of Mexico after their boat capsized have spoken out about their harrowing experience for the first time.

Phong Le and Luan Nguyen were two of three men rescued on Sunday after reportedly spending more than 30 hours in shark and jellyfish-infested waters off the Louisiana coastline.

In an interview Wednesday with Today hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, Le said the trio managed to survive after finding a brief signal on his cellphone in the middle of the gulf.

"I just opened up my phone to see my location. I opened up my Apple Maps to see where I'm at and it showed me my location," Le explained.

"I screenshotted it and all the text message started coming in when I turned off the airplane mode," he added.

Quickly, Le texted a friend, writing, "I'm floating out to sea, my boat sank." The friend then sent the message to the Coast Guard, which ultimately located the missing boaters.

The text message showed the victims' exact coordinates, simplifying the search for rescuers, per the report.

3 People Fending Off Sharks Rescued ‘Just in the Nick of Time’ in Gulf of Mexico After Fishing Boat Sinks
Coast Guard rescuers boaters who were fending off sharks. U.S. Coast Guard Heartland

Three members of the search crew — Lieutenant Commander Kevin Keefe, Katy Caraway and Andrew Stone — joined Le and Nguyen on stage during Wednesday's interview on Today for a special reunion.

Stone said the victims "were very tired, sunburned [and] dehydrated" when they were pulled from the water.

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Both Le and Nguyen were visibly emotional after meeting the crew that helped save their lives.

"I just remember him picking me up, pulling me out of the water, like 'Wow. I made it,' " Nguyen recalled.

Le said the trio's boat sank under "a perfect storm" of conditions. The vessel, which was tied to an oil rig, was battered by waves until it began taking on water.

"The minute we saw the back of the boat start taking on water, I knew right then and there; put on your life vest," Le told the Today hosts.

The trio of boaters also fashioned a raft out of two ice chests and a bandana, but still fought off both sharks and jellyfish while floating in the water.

One shark bit into Nguyen's life vest, but he managed to fight off the animal.

"He wouldn't go away so I jabbed him in the eyes," Nguyen explained. "I put my thumbs in his eyes and he took off. I got a couple of scars."

Meanwhile, Le said he was "constantly being stung" by large jellyfish. Stings would come every 15 to 20 minutes, he said during the Today interview.

"In the middle of the night, I woke up with a jellyfish this big in my lap," he recalled.

Keefe and Caraway said it was a great feeling to call the victims' families and inform them of their safe return to shore.

Stone said rescues like this are among the reasons he joined the Coast Guard.

"I love this branch because we're able to do stuff like that," he said. "And to be able to see [the survivors] alive and recovering, it's awesome."

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