An incredible story of survival.
Updated: 12:57 PM EDT
Woman Falls Overboard, Swims 13 Hours to Safety
The Associated Press
PALACIOS, Texas (Oct. 10) - Cold, frightened and desperate after 13 hours in the choppy Gulf of Mexico, Melinda Lopez refused to give up.
Melinda Lopez is rescued after falling from of her boyfriend's shrimp boat.
After falling overboard Tuesday from the shrimp boat where she worked, Lopez swam and floated until she reached safety at an oil platform, spray-painted a distress signal and managed to activate an alarm system to summon help.
"I just had to stay strong. I didn't want to go like that," the 32-year-old Lopez said in a story in Friday editions of The Victoria Advocate. "I didn't want to be eaten by fishes. I was really scared."
Lopez's ordeal began 70 miles off Galveston in the Gulf of Mexico, where Lopez was climbing around the 76-foot shrimper Ike and Zack to find a spot to read. She slipped and fell in the water without a life jacket.
Neither the boat's three-man crew nor those of other boats that floated past heard her cries.
"The water was rough," she said in the online edition of the Houston Chronicle, adding that she was bumped by large fish. "The waves were coming over my head."
Lopez said she swam all night, following a distant sound and finally reaching a foghorn on the offshore rig about daybreak Wednesday. There, she found a moldy loaf of bread, other food and water - and some black and white paint.
She painted an SOS on the platform, made a balloon out of a black trash bag and spray painted it with another plea for help. She was also able to trigger an alarm system on the platform, which activated sirens and lights.
Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Adam Wine said a jet pilot spotted the SOS on the oil platform Wednesday evening.
Rescued by a helicopter crew, she was "cold, shaking, dehydrated and in a slight state of shock, but stable" when she was transferred to Galveston's University of Texas Medical Branch, Wine said.
Lopez' mother cried and prayed as rescuers searched for her daughter.
"As long as she's my daughter, she'll never go to sea again," vowed Janie Lopez, of Palacios.
"I don't want to even get in the water," her daughter said.
10/10/03 00:43 EDT
Would you have the wits and will to survive?