Father And Son Survive 12 Hours At Sea

As reported by

When the Atlantic wrapped its currents around 12-year-old Christopher Marino and pulled him into the darkness of night, Walter Marino thought it was the last he would ever see of his son.

“He was gone,” Marino recalled thinking. “He was gone.”

The two had been sucked out to sea hours earlier during an evening trip to the beach.

Christopher, who is autistic and loves to swim, first thought it was a game.

“I knew we were in trouble, but he was laughing and that’s what got me through it,” Marino, 46, of Winter Park recalled Wednesday. Earlier that day, he and his family appeared on NBC‘s Today show to talk about the ordeal that set them adrift for more than 12 hours until they were rescued Sunday.

But miles from the shore at Ponce Inlet, things quickly started to fall apart.

They dog-paddled toward a buoy but couldn’t make it.

Jellyfish make boy scream

Marino put his head underwater to conserve energy, but he got seasick and started vomiting. Christopher, who only speaks in isolated words, screamed and cried when he felt the electric shock of jellyfish stings.

As a distraction, Marino summoned a catchphrase from Buzz Lightyear, the star of the animated movie Toy Story.

“To infinity!” he called out.

“And beyond!” responded Christopher with a fist pump into the air as they treaded water.

He and Marino also called out phrases from other favorites: 101 Dalmatians, Pinocchio.

Search helicopters glowed blue above them as they called out “Blue light! Blue light!”

But Christopher’s responses got farther and farther away until they faded into the black ocean.

“All of a sudden, I would yell a phrase at the top of my lungs and I didn’t hear him anymore,” Marino said. “I thought I had lost him.”

Dad watches lighthouse

Stricken, he focused on his 14-year-old daughter, Angela, picturing her ballroom dancing, a new interest. He told himself he would survive for her. He kept an eye on the Ponce Inlet lighthouse, which he had toured about a month earlier.

For the full story check out The Orlando Sentinel.