OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - A dream trip out to sea for the Sablich family of Ocean Springs turned into a nightmare on the open waters of the Gulf.
The family and two friends were fishing in a tournament when the worst possible thing happened. Their boat caught fire, burned and sank, leaving them fighting for their lives in the choppy waters.
After spending two hours trying to survive in the water, 80 miles south of Louisiana, the Sablich family is back home.
Jaime Sablich owns the 54 foot boat, the Final Fantasy. He said when the accident happened, everyone on board had to act fast.
"We got our life vests on and we said we had to go, we had within five minutes if not less and we were in the water," Sablich recalled. "Tray was instructing us to tie ropes around us and hang on to the ice chests. And we just began drifting away from the boat, watching it just burn away. And we were just helpless."
A friend on the boat, Tray Pitalo, used his safety training from years ago to use the ice chests as a beacon.
"We tied them all together and it made a big visual, and we hung onto it," Pitalo said. "And it worked because the captain on the crew boat said he could see that ice chest from a long ways away, but he didn't see us until he got a lot closer."
A crew boat from a nearby rig showed up to lead the rescue. The six were pulled from the Gulf, taken to the rig and given food and clothing. It was an emotional moment, but losing his beloved boat left Jaime drained as well.
"It was a family boat and the Pitalos are part of our family and we all enjoyed it," Sablich said.
A lot of quick thinking and action brought about this miraculous rescue, but Jaime said so did something else.
"The good Lord and the will that we were going to overcome it."
As for Jaime's three sons that were on the boat, this scare has made them think twice about the fragile nature of life, and how quickly things can change.
As for future deep sea fishing ventures for the family, John Sablich said, "I won't be going out for awhile, but I'm not going to say I won't go back out there. I enjoy it, but I'm not going anytime soon. Get a couple of years under my belt before I go back out there."
The Sablichs stress the importance of having safety gear on board during all trips on the water. That includes life jackets, and emergency flares, along with GPS tracking devices. They credit that preparedness with helping to save their lives. The also give a great deal of credit to the people on board the rig that helped in their rescue.