Student survives 16 hours at sea

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Monday, July 22, 2013 - 10:09am

A 20 year-old Florida college student survived a nightmare at sea, she found herself stranded in the water during a trip to Honduras.

There was no one around to call for help, so she did the only thing she could tread water for 16 hours, Sarina Fazan has her story.

"Even when I didn't feel like I was strong enough there was enough of me that still wanted to keep going that like I did and there was not - it like didn't seem like a choice."

Marine biology student Heather Barnes, went to Honduras with other students from the New College of Florida. On Friday, she decided to go snorkeling off the northern shore.

"We were supposed to, you know, go out with a buddy, which I had been doing, but it's a small bay and there wasn't a lot of water motion. I had felt comfortable in the bay, so it didn't seem like a really big deal and we went out all the time on our own during the day time."

Soon, she discovered she was stranded. Above her the sun beating down, below, jelly fish and string rays swarming her feet.

She knew she had no choice, but to tread water, "I wasn't that good a swimmer and I never saw any planes, any boats and at at time I'm like 'what am I supposed to do?' But the thing is-even when I was making that decision, my legs were still treading."

Her fellow students, trip organizers and college officials soon realized Heather was missing.

They desperately organized a search, even reaching out to Congressman Vern Buchanan and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, in hopes of getting help from the Honduran government.

In the end, Heather saved herself, actually swimming back to shore, where two locals found her sunburned, bitten, exhausted but alive, "I feel like I cheated death or like I cheated the ocean out of something."

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