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Teens Drifting In the Open Ocean Put Their Trust in Prayer

“We just saw like, ‘It's not that far. Let's just go swim over there.’" 

It was a perfect beach day on Florida’s east coast. Tyler Smith and Heather Brown were enjoying Senior Skip Day with their classmates from Christ’s Church Academy. Before long they decided to swim across the St. Augustine Inlet from Vilano Point to Anastasia Island -  500 yards away.

“We just kind of keep going like past the sandbar, just kinda keep getting deeper.”

As athletes, they were fairly good swimmers, but barely half way across they started getting tired.

“It was a lot further than we thought. But we saw a red buoy and we're like, ‘Let's swim to that, we'll grab onto it, we'll rest for a minute and then we'll just keep going.’”

Despite their efforts, they weren’t getting any closer to the buoy

“It just kept getting further and further to the right. But then it's like you realize no, you're moving further and further to the left.”

They had gotten caught in the outgoing tide.

“My heart was beating faster after I stopped seeing the red buoy. There's nothing left. All we see is ocean.”

Tyler and Heather stopped swimming and focused on staying afloat, and calm, as the current continued to carry them out to the sea.

“That's when I was pretty, actually, like scared. And he was just like, ‘Heather, I don't know what to do.’ I was like, ‘Tyler, what's the plan?’ We were like,  Just keep swimming like as long as you just keep yourself afloat, we can hold out till rescue.”

Back on the beach, their friends finally noticed the two were missing, unaware of their attempt to swim across the inlet. Someone called 911 and alerted their parents. Heather’s mother, BJ, was helping at her church when she got the call.

“It's your worst nightmare of a phone call that you would ever want to have. He said ‘BJ, Heather and Tyler are missing.’ And you know, nobody knew. And so, I just, the tears start forming, they just, I start balling. It was a deep panic that my child has drowned.”

BJ and others at the church started to pray for the missing teenagers.

"’I want her alive, Lord, please don't take her from me, you know. Keep her floating. Give them both the strength.’ When there's nothing you can do, you have to pray.”

By now, Heather and Tyler had been fighting the rough seas and hour and a half, and praying desperately for a miracle.

“I was like screaming like, ‘God, like please help!’ Like I was saying please over and over again.”

"’God, please just save us. Like we're almost dying out here. Can you please just send something for us?’ I really thought that was going to be the last day of my life."

Then, exhausted and losing hope, they heard a boat engine over the waves.

“All I see is this like big yacht just coming down along the island where all the other boats are going.  And I was like, ‘There's no way it's coming towards us.’ But it made it even like a sharper turn towards us.”

The boat, however, wasn’t coming for them.  The owner, Eric Wagner, and his three-man crew were headed up the coast when they made a last minute decision to take the 53-foot yacht for a run in the open ocean.  

“The windows were up, but the wind was strong, a lot of waves. The engines are loud. We have to talk loudly to hear each other on the boat, let alone somebody that's off the boat.”

As the boat passed by about 200 yards away The teens realized no one had seen them.

“So I was just like waving it, screaming. This, to me, was our last chance. I was like, this boat right here, if we don't get on this boat, we're not getting out of here alive.”

 “We thought we heard a scream. We thought we heard something, and we all stopped talking and looked around. Troy was behind the wheel at the time he starts cranking the wheel over and he says, ‘There's people back there.’"

Heather and Tyler watched as the boat came around.

“And then all of a sudden, I see someone go like that and then like wave. And I was like, yes, yes!”

“All we do is like hold up - like hug each other. We're like, ‘We're getting out of this.’ Looking back at it like ‘God saved us from this.’"

By the time they pulled the exhausted teenagers aboard -  they had drifted two miles off the coast.

“Heather came on first. The very first thing she said to me, she looked me in the eye, and she said, ‘God is real.’”

“Mr. Eric heard me, and he was like, ‘It's crazy how you say that 'cause you wanna know the name of our boat?’  He's like, ‘It's called the Amen.’"

“We just broke down crying. We were like, no way, like this is straight out of a movie. Like there's no way He did this.”

BJ received another call, this time it was Heather.

“I'm so glad to hear your voice. I'm so grateful. Like, oh my God, thank you God! And it was just such a, like a celebration right there.”

Tyler and Heather went on to graduate, and look forward to moving on to college and their future goals. But no matter where they go, they know that they serve a God who loves them and answers their prayers.

“It really has brought me closer to talking to Him like a friend. And it just - it's miraculous.”

“It grows your relationship with God and relieves you of like doubt and it builds a bond. When you are truly ready to come to Him hopeless, like he's going to rescue you.”

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