May 9, 2005
It would take a few days before his nephew’s body washed ashore, Jack DeLaMater was told.
The weeklong search of the open ocean had revealed no trace of the two boys who set sail off the South Carolina coast.
If the treacherous seas hadn’t killed them, the elements certainly had.
For the veteran Mesa police sergeant, tragedy had never struck so close to home.
DeLaMater and his wife flew to Charleston, S.C., on April 25 and camped out for days at his sisterin-law’s side, organizing search parties and waiting for word.
On the seventh day, everything changed.
Troy Driscoll, DeLaMater’s 15-year-old nephew, and Josh Long, 18, were found clinging to their tiny sailboat 100 miles from where they started. They were sunburned, dehydrated and hungry but very much alive.
"It’s one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had — to go from such sadness to such elation within a week is just unbelievable," DeLa-Mater said.
On the afternoon of April 24, the boys were sucked into the open sea after 20 minutes of fishing at Inlet Breach, an area known for its bad currents.
Hundreds of citizens, family members and church members scoured the coastline in kayaks, boats and planes for the boys. The Coast Guard charted an extensive search grid that predicted where the boat might drift, but they called it off after 72 hours.
Friends, family and other agencies renewed the search with vigor.
"Our only glimmer of hope was that they never recovered the boat," DeLaMater said. "Frankly, most of us thought that they probably were lost and never coming back. We finally got to that point. Professionals told me the boys probably drowned, and they were waiting for the bodies to surface within a couple days."
Driscoll and Long drifted toward Cape Fear, N.C., fighting to stay alive.
They jumped in the water once to cool off but got back in once they saw several sharks.
They were almost mowed down by a huge ship that sped by in the middle of the night.
With their fishing pole lost, no fresh water and one wetsuit to share for warmth, the boys began to resign themselves to dying.
Passing fisherman found them April 30 — Driscoll 15 pounds lighter, Long 30 pounds lighter.
"There were tears and a lot of laughter," DeLaMater remembered. "They are both very spiritual young men and believe God had a helping hand in saving both of their lives."