Missing Boater Rescued from Uninhabited Island - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

04/06/06

Missing Boater Rescued from Uninhabited Island

It's an amazing tale of survival, not from some reality show, but real life. The Coast Guard rescued George Hamilton, 73, of Savannah this morning after he had been missing off South Carolina's coast for more than a week. The Coast Guard and Department of Natural Resources searched for him for nine days.

They found his boat capsized near Daufuskie Island last Wednesday. A charter boat captain spotted him this morning on nearby Turtle Island, and to everyone's amazement, he was alive.

"Mosquitoes were hard on me, nighttime was hard on me," he said, speaking to us from his hospital bed at Memorial Health. "I knew I could survive on oysters and clams."

Hamilton survived nine long, hot days and eight long, cold nights on the uninhabited island. Last Tuesday, he took his boat out to go fishing, something he has done all his life. But this time, he didn't come home.

"The wind came in a big gush and blew the boat over," he told us.

The Coast Guard found his boat, but no sign of Hamilton. "We dove the area, looking for a possible drowning victim," Sgt. Gentry Thames of the DNR said.

But Hamilton wasn't dead. "You're thinking how to survive, how you can get more food into your body," he said. Was he thinking about his family? "Family couldn't do me no good. Only thing that could do me good was a little prayer maybe."

Hamilton told us he saw all the rescuers looking for him--the boats, the divers, the helicopter--but they didn't see him. It wasn't until the boat Jack's Cut passed by at 9am this morning that someone finally spotted him.

Jack McGowan is the captain of that boat. "In the tree line, we could make out someone," he told us. "Then we knew there was trouble."

"It was a happy morning," said Hamilton. "I'd stand up and fall down, get back up. I waived and hollered, they finally looked around."

Vacationers on the boat with Capt. Jack waived and hollered back. "It was a nice catch for us," vacationer Bob Tucker told us.

An hour later--at 10am--the Coast Guard rescued Hamilton. They took him to the hospital. That's when Hamilton got to see his wife Claretha and family. "It was a miracle that he had survived," Claretha said.

His family says they never gave up hope. "It was a wonderful thing to see him alive," said Claretha. "I'm telling you a great feeling to see him alive."

Hamilton says this experience brought his family closer together. "That was a blessing, so they knew I was still alive."

Hamilton said something else kept him going: a bottle of gin he found on the island. It was half full. He has a great sense of humor about the whole ordeal.

Doctors are keeping him in the hospital overnight. He was very dehydrated and had bad muscle cramps. He's expected to go home tomorrow.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter, mpaynter@wtoc.com

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