Mother recounts harrowing rescue in Old Saybrook - WFSB 3 Connecticut

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Mother recounts harrowing rescue in Old Saybrook

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(WFSB photo) (WFSB photo)
OLD SAYBROOK, CT (WFSB) -

A harrowing story of survival.

That's how a mother remembers what happened to her family after their sailboat sank off the cost of Old Saybrook.

Heather Emanualson said she and her husband, Darrell Emanualson, took their 4 and 6-year-old children for what they thought would be a quick sail on Wednesday afternoon. Their plan was to go to the Saybrook lighthouse.

They found themselves swimming for their lives.

"The current and the wind were too strong for our boat and our boat wouldn't turn around and it started dipping taking on a little water," Heather Emanualson said.

She told Eyewitness News that it was tough to sleep Thursday night, hours after surviving the nightmare.

She said her family's 13 foot sailboat took on water.

With their life vests on, they swam for what seemed like hours.

There were no boats around to rescue them, so Heather Emanualson said she made the decision to swim for help.

"We decided my husband can hold the kids and keep them floating above water and I would swim to shore and try to get help," she said. "That was the worst thing, having to say 'ok bye guys I'm swimming to shore.'"

Heather Emanualson said her lifeguard training from Hammonassett State Park kicked in, allowing her to stay positive.

"The sun would come out and I'd say 'you can do this I can make it just swim a little bit farther,'" she said. "Seems like a couple of times I'd say 'I can't believe this is how I'm going to die today.'"

Luckily, three boys in a fishing boat came along and took her to White Sands Beach in Old Lyme. There, lifeguards alerted first responders of her floating family.

The tide took Darrell Emanualson and the children two miles east to Miami Beach, where the staff at Lenny's Bar warmed up the blue-lipped children.

Everyone was eventually reunited, safe and sound.

"I finally saw my kids and hugged my husband," Heather Emanualson said. "They were eating chicken nuggets and all they had to say was 'Hi Mom!""

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said it is investigating.

In the meantime, the sailboat remains submerged. The family said they home to salvage it soon.

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