Brownwood police officer Dustin Bode said he’d never expected to see his brother-in-law, missing boater James Phillips, again. The family was starting to discuss plans for a funeral.
That changed Saturday night when Bode and his wife, Christi, learned that Phillips, and Phillips’ two companions had been rescued from the Gulf of Mexico. Phillips is Christi Bode’s brother.
The three had been missing for a week after they failed to return from an overnight fishing trip on the 23-foot catamaran Phillips owned. A yacht crew spotted the trio sitting on top of the overturned boat 180 miles from land.
“This is the first day I’ve been relaxed in a long time,” Bode said Monday at the Law Enforcement Center.
Bode said his mother-in-law called Saturday night with the news that Phillips, 30, had been found alive.
“She was screaming. My wife could barely understand her. My wife started screaming and crying,” Bode said. “We were in disbelief right when we first found out.”
Bode said he and his wife will go see Phillips, who lives in the Matagorda County town of Blessing, this weekend. He said he has spoken with his brother-in-law since the rescue and “he was just happy to be back on land.”
The crew of the Affordable Fantasy spotted the men Saturday night off Port Aransas and rescued them from their 23-foot catamaran, said Petty Officer 3rd Class Renee Aiello. A Coast Guard boat met them and brought them back to land, where emergency management service crews were waiting for them. They declined medical attention.
They were identified as Curtis Hall, 28, of Palacios; Tressel Hawkins, 43, of Markham; and Phillips.
The three were reported missing Aug. 22 after they left Matagorda, about 90 miles southwest of Houston, on a fishing trip and never returned. Port Aransas is about 130 miles from Matagorda.
The three went to sleep that Friday night and were awakened by water coming in, said Shane Phillips, whose husband, James, was relaxing Sunday with his five children.
“They tried to start the pumps to get the water out,” she told the Houston Chronicle. “They would not start.”
They fired off three flares hoping to get the attention of workers at a nearby oil rig, but no one responded. The boat capsized that night.
The Coast Guard officials said they survived because they stuck with the boat. The men also rationed bubble gum and crackers and used a hose to suck fresh water out of the internal "washdown" tank. Fishermen often keep such a tank to wash fish slime off their boat when they are out in the salt water.
“It's not the cleanest, not the greatest and it tasted like diesel,” Shane Phillips told the newspaper.
The Coast Guard had called off its search Friday after scouring 86,000 square miles of water without finding them.
“It's like finding a needle in a haystack out in the Gulf of Mexico,” Aiello said late Saturday. “It's obvious they had a will to survive, and they did it for seven days.”
Hall's fiancee, Rebecca Kern, said it was difficult to describe her emotions.
“It's just been a roller coaster of emotions all week, the not knowing, getting upset and fearing for them out there. We weren't going to give up,” she said. “We knew they were out there on that boat and we had to bring them home.”