"Things were getting desperate," says Amen's captain

Advertisement
Heather Brown, Tyler Smith
Credit: Action News Jax

Heather Brown and Tyler Smith, both 17, worried that they may not survive after a strong current swept them two miles away from the Vilano Beach shore in Jacksonville, Florida.

The teens had skipped school on April 18 as part of a beach senior skip day and decided to swim offshore, according to WTVT. As they swam, the current became too strong, and soon the pair found themselves stranded at sea.

“I asked him, I said, ‘Tyler, oh my God, we’re stuck! What’s the plan?'” Brown told WJAX.

Smith added that they began to pray: “I cried out, I was like, ‘[God], if you really do have a plan for us, come on, just bring something.”

Their body temperatures had started to dip and they struggled to hold each other up, according to WJAX.

Meanwhile, 50-year-old Eric Wagner was heading from South Florida toward New Jersey with three friends in his boat, named Amen, Wagner tells PEOPLE. That’s when they “heard a scream in the distance.”

“I was in disbelief. The whole thing was incredulous. I didn’t think it was people at first,” says Amen‘s captain. “I thought maybe it was ducks or who knows. It was so far away it was so hard to tell. Then as I looked closely, I saw one was waving.”

He adds: “Then I knew for sure it was people. And then it kind of sunk that they were in big trouble. There’s no reason for people to be two miles out in the water without a boat or flotation device.”

The group traveled the 150 yards to the teens and threw them life jackets and a rope to pull them onto the boat. He says they rescued the teens around 1:30 p.m. and Brown told him that he and Brown had started swimming just before 12 p.m.

“They were both shivering uncontrollably. His lips were white, so he was having a hard time talking,” Wagner tells PEOPLE, noting that Smith and Brown quickly regained their color and warmed up. “That’s when he had told me that no matter what direction he was swimming he kept going out. Things were getting desperate. It was clear to me that he was at the end because his right leg was cramped up. Both of them looked terrible.”

Wagner says Smith told him that he and Brown prayed while in the water. He recalls the first words Brown said to him after they were rescued: “God is real.”

The teens were taken to a nearby hospital and are doing well.

“There’s no other reason, no other explanation in the world other than God,” Smith told WJAX.

Now, Wagner says hearing people call him and his friends heroes is “awkward.” Instead, he says, the children are heroes for praying.