(WHDH) — More than a dozen people were pulled from the water in a dramatic rescue after a pontoon boat capsized off the coast of Florida on Sunday.
The boat was out in choppy seas despite a boating advisory that had been issued near the Tampa area.
Passenger Allona Haynes says she thought she wasn’t going to make it.
“Luckily my dad saved me and dragged me to the boat and I got one of the seat cushions to hold me up,” she said. “I thought I was going to drown.”
The Pasco Sheriff’s Office says those on board should have listened to the boating advisory.
“It was a lot rougher than you think,” said Corporal Russ Meissner. “It was probably 25 mile-per-hour winds. That specific area was 3-foot waves. We took a beating just trying to get to that scene.”
Several people who ended up in the water didn’t have life jackets and many admitted they didn’t know how to swim, which created even more panic.
“We had one guy in the water without a life jacket at all holding a duffel bag,” said Corporal Mitch Boloenbacher. “One person was holding on to a life jacket but didn’t have the life jacket on correctly.”
“Even us who could swim, it was so hard,” said Loryn Decker, who was among those rescued. “I was treading water for 20 minutes.”
Sheriff Chris Nocco is thankful everyone is safe, and he’s using the incident as a lesson going into the summer season.
“Wear your vests,” Nocco said.
To see the dramatic footage, check out the video above.
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