Boater Rescued From Sharks Off Fla. Coast Sat Nov 12, 6:51 PM ET
ANNAPOLIS, Maryland - A man whose boat capsized in rough seas off the Florida coast treaded water for six hours, watching his friend die, while two boaters refused to pick him up apparently thinking he was an illegal immigrant from Haiti.
Rogers Washington was eventually saved by two other boaters on Thursday who spotted him frantically waving his arms and shouting "I'm an American! I'm an American!"
"It would have been very easy not to have seen him," said David Pensky, 61, who saved Washington. "At first, I wasn't sure if he was a diver trying to make sure I didn't hit him." he told The (Annapolis) Capital, a Maryland newspaper.
Pensky and Richard Holden, 63, noticed the fisherman, orange whistle to his lips, floating with the aid of a cooler lid and a small life vest shoved under his arm.
e the best men in the world," Washington said on Friday. "They are God's children."
Washington said he capsized while on a fishing trip with Robert Lewis Moore, 62, also from Florida, after two large waves hit his 22-foot boat. The boat went down quickly, leaving the men clutching life vests.
Moore probably had a heart attack and died when a shark began circling them, Washington said. He tried resuscitating Moore, but it didn't work. He held onto his friend for about 45 minutes.
"I had to let him go so I could try to survive," he said.
Washington floated alone in the choppy seas for about five more hours, the coastline visible in the distance. A hammerhead shark came within 5 feet of him. Two boats, a charter and a sailboat, passed within a couple hundred feet. No one on those boats offered to help.
"They waved at me. I know they saw me," said Washington, who is black and believes the other boaters thought he was an illegal immigrant from Haiti.
Moore's body was fo
und Thursday by a fisherman.
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