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Man Stays Alfloat For Two Days With Wooden Leg

June 5, 1986

HUDSON, Fla. (AP) _ A man who spent two days drifting in the Gulf of Mexico after his boat capsized says he never gave up hope of rescue, talked aimlessly to his dog, and depended on his balsa wood leg for buoyancy.

″That’s the only good thing about that bad leg,″ Edward Shiflett, 42, said from his hospital room.

Shiflett was five or six miles offshore on May 19 and was trying to start a stalled motor when his 14-foot boat was capsized by the wake of a larger, fast-moving boat. At first, he said, he clung to the boat, but when it started to sink he grabbed a life jacket, the seat cushion and Rags, his Lhasa Apso.

Shiflett, whose leg was amputated in 1981 as the result of injuries received five years earlier in a car accident, said he lay on his stomach, hooked his good leg over the wooden leg and rested his face on a floating seat cushion.

That night, a fierce storm kicked up waves he described as high as eight feet, Shiflett said in his first interview since his rescue by a pleasure boat May 21. ″It was just like being inside of a dishwasher.″

Shiflett said he never gave up hope, thought about God, envisioned a big jug of cold milk and talked ″just about any old thing″ to Rags. ″He was just walking around the cushion some, like he was getting too warm, so I put him in the water for a little bit to cool off,″ he said.

Shiflett said he put the dog back on the cushion. ″He walked around a little bit, licked me in the face, laid down and died.″

A helicopter flew nearby, but searchers failed to spot him, and a couple hours later Shiflett was rescued by Johnny Beckham of Naples, who was boating with his family.

Shiflett was pulled from the water exhausted and deyhdrated, with deep cuts on his arms and the stump where his artificial leg is attached below the knee.

He was moved from intensive care last weekend at Bayonet Point-Hudson Regional Medical Center, and recounted the ordeal Tuesday in a taped interview with hospital spokeswoman Chris Duffy who submitted questions from Tampa area reporters. He did not want to be quizzed directly.

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