Drowning teens saved by ‘hand of God’
THE prayers of high schoolers Heather Brown and Tyler Smith were answered after they were washed out to sea - and saved by a boat named "Amen."
The two seniors at Christ Church Academy in Jacksonville, Florida, decided to hit the beach with a group of friends in St. John's County when the day of fun almost turned deadly.
The pair jumped in the water at Vilano Beach, but made the mistake of trying to swim farther than they were able.
"Me and Heather's idea originally was to swim to an island," Tyler told ABC News. "Me and her were like the strong, courageous ones of the group. Eventually one turned around and the next."
"I asked Tyler, 'Do you want to keep going?' Heather told ABC News. "He said, 'I don't care.' ... He said, 'Let's go for it!'"
But the pair, by now the only ones in the group still swimming, were quickly caught up in a current that continued to pull them out deeper into the ocean.
"By the time we were trying to go back, it kept pushing us out," Heather said.
"I said, 'You see that red buoy? Let's swim to that, grab on and hold onto it and wait for someone to come rescue us,'" Tyler said. "We were swimming, swimming, swimming to it and the current was really strong. The current pushed us to the left of it."
"We lost the buoy all together and that was the moment we needed something miraculous," Heather said.
Tyler described himself as "not the most excellent swimmer," but competent enough to make the planned distance. Now, pushed out farther by the current, they were both starting to panic and Tyler said he was starting to struggle physically with cramping.
"While I was laying on my back, the best I could, floating, I just called out, 'God, please don't let this be the end. I still want to see my family ... send someone to save us,'" Tyler said.
Their friends later told them they drifted so far out of view they couldn't see them anymore and went back to the cars to get help. Tyler and Heather were out in the water for an hour and a half when they finally saw a boat.
"He said, 'Heather, just keep screaming, just keep screaming,'" Heather said. "I see this shaded hand through the screen waving back at me. I was like, 'This is it, this is it, we're getting out of here!'"
The boat's name: "Amen."
Eric Wagner, the boat's captain, told ABC News he was about 180 metres away when he saw the teens.
"We realised there were two people who should not be there," Mr Wagner told "GMA." "I assumed their vessel, their kayak, or something had sunk. They were stranded and had life jackets on and were waiting for us to pick them up."
Instead, as they approached, they saw no life jackets - just two frightened teens.
"The situation was dire, pretty drastic," Mr Wagner added. "I asked, 'Where is your boat?' Heather said she'll tell me later."
Mr Wagner told Fox News that when he told the teens the name of the boat, "that's when they started to cry".
"The young couple was gracious and grateful to us and to God.
The two were exhausted, but unhurt after the ordeal.
"From us crying out to God, for Him to send someone for us to keep living and a boat named Amen, there's no way that it wasn't Him," Tyler told Fox News.
"We were the only boat there, too," Mr Wagner said. "It was a day that only the fishing boats were going out and they go straight out to the Gulf Stream. They don't go up and down the coast, so I don't think any boats would have found them."
He added, "I don't want to call it dumb luck, it wasn't, it was the hand of God."