Teen carried out to sea by riptide survives harrowing 10-hour journey to make it back to land

"I’ve been in the Coast Guard for 18 years and I have never seen anything like this"
July 12, 2018 2:26 pm Last Updated: July 12, 2018 2:26 pm

Blake Spataro is happy to be back on dry land after a riptide carried him into the ocean on the evening of Tuesday, June 10. The 19-year-old was on vacation when he was unexpectedly carried out to sea.

“I was out there sitting by the shore when a rip tide [sic] washes me straight into the ocean,” Blake said to ActionJax News.

The current was strong that evening, and despite his best efforts, Blake was unable to paddle his way back to dry land. He eventually tired himself out, and was forced to flip onto his back and float along the waves.

For the next 10 hours, Blake spent the evening drifting deeper into the ocean, unsure if he was going to survive.

“I didn’t want to die out there. I was talking to God the entire night,” he said.

Authorities were already aware of Blake’s disappearance, and were searching the waters for him. But with so much area to scan, Blake’s cries for help failed to rise above the roar of the waves.

The U.S. Coast Guard searched by air and by boat to try and find the missing teenager. Kirk Spataro, Blake’s father, walked along the edge of the water all night, yelling his son’s name.

“I was screaming, I was hollering, I was looking,” Kirk Spataro said to ActionJax News.

Blake spent the night fighting for his life, but was starting to feel as though it were a losing battle. Just as he was going to surrender to the ocean, he saw a glimmer of hope.

Light from a Coast Guard boat gave his morale a much needed boost.

Not giving up

“I wanted to live, I wanted to live, I was too young to die and I didn’t want it to end there,” Blake said. “That gave me some comfort and gave me some motivation to keep going.”

Blake somehow summoned the strength to push beyond his exhaustion, eventually making landfall on a golf course early Wednesday morning.  Justin Irwin, a Senior Chief, with the U.S. Coast Guard, in Brunswick, was blown away by Blake’s survival.

“I’ve been in the Coast Guard for 18 years and I have never seen anything like this,” Irwin said to ActionJax News.

Workers at the golf course gave Blake some food and water while he waited for an ambulance to arrive. He will make a full recovery, but likely won’t have many fond memories of his summer vacation.

“Worst vacation ever, but also my most exciting ever,” he said.

Blake Spataro spent 10 hours lost at sea. He eventually made landfall at the Ocean Forest Golf Course, more than 8 miles away from his original location. (ActionJax News/ Screenshot)

Blake said he feels blessed to be alive, and his family is happy to be reunited with him.

“He remained calm and knew that he could possibly die so he prayed to God and turned his life over to God’s will and with strong determination and faith he swam for almost 10 hours until he made it to shore,” Blake’s mother, Janice Dansby Spataro said in a Facebook post.

“Oh and he did all that with his glasses on the whole time.”