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‘I lost my Crocs:’ Jet skier, 81, is laughing after rescue

January 5, 2019

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — An 81-year old man was on a New Year’s Eve jet ski ride when he got stuck near Skull Creek off Hilton Head Island, according to a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Joe Patton said he left his Hilton Head home to take a sunset cruise around 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 31. He said he frequently takes circular rides on his jet ski around Skull Creek near Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks.

“It was a beautiful evening with fairly clear water and a beautiful sunset,” Patton said. “I would have been out and back at the dock before dark.”

Just before 8 p.m., his peaceful ride changed.

Patton’s jet ski got stuck in a sand bar in a marshy area of the creek.

“There was so much pluff mud that I couldn’t get the jet ski loose and the tide was dropping,” Patton said.

Patton said he used his cell phone to call Sea Tow, the nationwide boat towing service. A crew tried to rescue him but was unsuccessful due to the shallow water and pluff mud.

“Sea Tow couldn’t get closer than a football field away,” Patton said of the rescue attempt.

That’s when Sea Tow and the Hilton Head Fire Rescue called in the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard arrived on the scene via Dolphin helicopter around 8:55 p.m., according to petty officer 3rd class Ryan Dickinson with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Patton said he used his phone as a flashlight to help crews identify him. He said he used the last one percent of his remaining battery life to call his wife so she knew he was okay.

Dickinson said Patton told the Coast Guard he could “just wait until high tide came in” to help him coast to the nearest shore, citing that would be likely happen around 5 a.m.

“I’m not sure if that would have happened or not,” Dickinson said.

But Patton told The Island Packet he could have held on.

“It was not that uncomfortable out there because the temperature was in the 60s, I had on warm enough clothes and there were no bugs,” he said. “I’m in good health, I had plenty of water and I was safe just sitting there.”

As weather conditions worsened due to fog, the Coast Guard hoisted Patton from the water and reunited him with his wife — who was waiting at the Hilton Head Airport.

Patton did not appear to have any medical concerns, Dickinson said. The report did not include any indication that Patton was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The experience left Patton laughing.

“I’m very appreciative of what everybody tried to do to get me out of there,” Patton said. “I haven’t had that much fun since I was a captain and paratrooper in the Army.”

The most significant loss from his four hours alone on the water?

“I lost my Crocs,” Patton said of the rubber shoes he typically wears when he’s on the jet ski. “Pluff mud will suck anything off your feet.”

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Information from: The Island Packet, http://www.islandpacket.com

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