‘I was going to die’: Man goes overboard 40 miles off Topsail Beach, saved by father and son

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WWAY) — One man is crediting a father and son duo for saving his life after falling overboard 37 miles off the coast of Topsail Island.

On July 5, Sascha Scheller says he was on his boat alone. The weather was nice, so he headed a little further offshore than he normally would by himself to catch mahi.

He had taken his life jacket off, because it was so calm. While relieving himself off the side of his boat, he lost his footing and fell overboard.

“I tried to grab the side of the boat and my fingers slipped. I tried to grab my ladder down here, which was folded up inside, but my hand slipped off of that and…watched the boat go out to sea, heading away,” Scheller said. “I was just watching that and realizing that…I was going to die.”

His boat wound up driving up to another boat with a father and son on board, who also went a little further offshore than they normally would in search of mahi. They quickly noticed there was no captain after the boat got close to them. That’s when Andrew and Jack Sherman jumped into action.

“We speed up and kinda trail them for about 20 yards off their port side,” Jack said. “My father digs out the air horn and gives them a few honks.”

After a few minutes of no one responding, they decided to board the boat. After figuring out the safest possible strategy, Jack made the leap from their boat to the unmanned boat expecting to find a captain who had suffered a heart attack or other fatal health conditions.

They called the Coast Guard once they realized it was likely a man-overboard situation. The Coast Guard advised them to check the boat’s GPS.

“I found a trail,” Andrew said. “Modern GPS systems, a boat can put down a track and that track is, essentially, to leave a line behind wherever you’ve been, and he had done that. He had set up a track.”

The duo split up, looking at different points where the boat had been. Jack came across a pair of deck boots in the water. He radioed his father, that’s when Andrew realized that someone likely took them off to make themselves lighter. He figured out which way the shoes likely came from and headed that way. Eventually, he saw something.

“I sped up the boat as fast as it would go, covered the distance quite quickly,” Andrew said. “I just saw this arm come out of the water, like this. I came on the radio and I was like, Coast Guard, I have found him.”

“Instant relief,” Scheller said. “Knowing that…knowing that I could come back home to my kids, my wife, my parents. It was the best feeling in the world.”

At this point, Scheller had been treading water for two and a half hours. That was all thanks to the advice his father gave him when he was young.

“You are in control of your mind and if you decide you’re going to make something happen using your mind, then you can do anything you possibly want to do,” Scheller said.

Now he pleads to boaters to prioritize safety.

“Do not take off your life jacket,” Scheller said. “Even if it’s the most perfect day, do not take your life jacket off and always have a killswitch. Always.”

Specifically, he wants people to know there are wireless killswitches available that can attach to passengers as well as the captain.

Scheller says spreading the importance of safety while boating is now something he is passionate about and plans to pursue in some way.

Needless to say, he hails the Shermans as his heroes and the trio has plans to bring their families together and plan to go on fishing trips together in the future.

Categories: Local, New Hanover, News, Pender, Top Stories

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