GUARD

Missing Jet Skier Found Alive After Waving Down Rescue Helicopter

A jet skier waved a flag to grab the attention of a passing rescue helicopter Wednesday morning, more than 13 hours after a search for the missing South Jersey man began.

The Coast Guard found 68-year-old Thomas Graham in the Great Sound in Stone Harbor, Cape May County around 8:30 a.m. shortly after a crew on an MH-65 Dolphin Helicopter spotted the man from the air, officials said.

"We were coming over the water and I saw the jet ski first," said Petty Officer 2nd Class James Caliendo. "Then I saw Graham standing on his jet ski waving what looked like a green flag, my adrenaline started going."

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The search for the Stone Harbor man began Tuesday around 2:30 p.m.

“The battery went dead and I couldn’t get it started,” said Graham. "I was lucky I had three bottles of water on the craft."

"The best thing that gentleman did was stay with the jet ski," said Caliendo. "It gives you more of a target for something to find."

The Coast Guard and New Jersey State Police searched more than 68 square miles, by air and sea, before finding Graham, according to authorities.

"We circled Graham and hovered near his location," Caliendo said. "This alerted the others looking for Graham to his location. They came over, took him aboard another jet ski and transferred him onto a boat."

Graham was grateful for the rescue.

"They tried to take me to the hospital," said Graham. "I told them all I need is a cup of coffee and a hot shower, I’m fine."

Rescuers transported Graham to Cape Regional Medical Center in good condition. 

Graham felt bad for causing such a stir.

"I apologize," Graham said. "It’s something that could have been avoided."

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