HOUSTON (AP) — John Reynolds and the four others aboard the Nite Owl weren't worried when the thunderstorms made it impossible for the commercial fishing boat to return back to shore. They'd seen this kind of weather before.
They did what they normally would, tying the boat to an oil rig off the Texas Gulf Coast and going to sleep. But early Friday morning, "a rogue wave, a freak wave or something hit the side of the boat," Reynolds said.
"It just collapsed the cabin ... where the captain sleeps," he said in a telephone interview Sunday as the U.S. Coast Guard announced it was calling off the search for the other four people who were aboard the Nite Owl. "When it hit, it tore the whole top of the boat off."
The captain was sent overboard, and within two minutes, the 50-foot vessel sunk. One crew member tried to reach the captain, while Reynolds and the two others saw a life raft. Reynolds was the only one who reached it.
He then spent about two hours floating in the Gulf of Mexico before the Coast Guard rescued him.
The Coast Guard scoured a 5,400-square-mile area with planes, helicopters and boats looking for Reynolds' four crewmates before calling off its search Sunday.
"I'm just sorry they didn't find anybody. I wish all the guys would have been in the life raft with me," Reynolds told The Associated Press.
The Coast Guard has identified three of the missing fishermen as Don Windom, Duoc Dan Nguyen and Jamie Esquivel. Larry Moore, the boat's owner, identified the fourth missing man as Charles Patrick, the vessel's captain.
What became a harrowing journey for Reynolds and the four other men began Thursday when the Nite Owl left Port Bolivar, located near Galveston, for what was to be an eight to 12 day fishing trip, said Moore, who runs M.L.T. Seafood Inc. in Golden Meadow, La. The Nite Owl is the company's only fishing boat.
Reynolds, 56, from Gaston, Ala., said that after the boat was hit by the "freak wave," he and three other crew members who had been sleeping below deck, climbed upstairs, pushing debris out of the way. Realizing Patrick was missing, they began calling out for him. Patrick answered them back once, although they couldn't see him.