Missing Swimmer Speaks Out About Ordeal

By Elise Roberts - bio | email

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - What started as a day of fishing, left one man swimming for his life. Colin Rayner went missing for more than 12 hours after a boating accident Monday evening.

Search teams and volunteers spent hours looking for the 28-year-old who ended up swimming back to shore.

"It was kidding around that turned out real bad. Heat of the moment lying about me falling in and it was a lesson learned."

That's how Colin Rayner sums up what happened late Monday evening.

"I was scared at times. But I just said, 'You got to do it. It's life or death,'" Rayner said.

He said it all started when he took a new female acquaintance on a fishing trip. Rayner said he was trying to go to the bathroom off the side of the boat, and that's when a joke went too far.

"She then gave me a good shove over into the water, that's the only thing I could think of. But the problem is the wind is so strong that it was pushing the boat toward Gulfport," Rayner said.

The last time he saw her, he was yelling for help.

The 28-year-old said over the course of 19 hours, the currents pushed his body from the Beau Rivage back to the Gulfport Harbor. But he never gave up hope that he would make it back to shore and he would make it alive.

"I would just lay on my back and the waves were on a rhythm. So I would just inhale and exhale to make sure I didn't have my mouth open, and I almost went to sleep. That's when I said, 'I can't do that no more,'" Rayner said.

So he continued swimming, riding the currents and trying to gain the attention of nearby search crews.

"They were all over me. Boats were all over me. Helicopters were all over me. I saw the helicopters eyes looking at me and I could hear the people talking over me. They were that close. The problem was they were all west of me," Rayner said.

Coast Guard officials said they covered miles of concentrated search patterns. They also utilized aircraft from both New Orleans and Mobile, but no one could find Colin Rayner.

"I said, 'Maybe this is it.' And I put my head under the water just to see what it would be like, and I didn't like that feeling," said Rayner.

So he swam through the evening and overnight. By 2:30 Tuesday afternoon, Rayner made it back to shore near Courthouse Road. He was unharmed, but naked, dehydrated and tired.

As for the woman Colin Rayner was with on the boat, she's back home in Connecticut. Rayner said he has no plans to press charges. However, authorities said the boating incident is still under investigation.