OSWEGO, N.Y. (AP) -- Four men spent 17 hours in Lake Ontario clinging to an empty beer cooler after 5-foot waves capsized and sank their fishing boat.
The men were rescued Wednesday morning after a man living near the lakeshore heard their faint cries for help and took out his boat.
"Thank goodness they didn't give up hollering," said the rescuer, Joe Stewart.
"It was nothing short of a miracle," survivor Todd Wafer said from his bed at Oswego Hospital.
Besides Wafer, 23, those rescued were Dan Trumble, 45; Rich Batchelor, 31; Tom Ketcham, 28, of Mexico.
The men, all employees of Solvay Paperboard, headed out on the lake in Trumble's 19-foot fishing boat Tuesday after finishing a shift at work. They were miles offshore when the waves struck the boat around 1 p.m.
Batchelor said he tried in vain to grab life jackets from the cabin.
As the men tried to stay afloat in the rough water, their beer cooler emerged from the waves. The friends emptied out its contents and it became something to hang onto.
"If the cooler hadn't come up, we would have died," said Wafer. "We couldn't move. Every time we started to move, another wave came at us."
As night fell, the men still had not seen a boat. There was no search for the men because they were not reported missing; relatives thought they were with friends. The water temperature was about 78 degrees overnight and the waves were getting stronger, said Eric Gagnon of the Oswego Coast Guard station.
"We did anything at all to keep us going and to keep us awake," Trumble said.
Stewart and his wife heard their faint calls about 5:20 a.m. Wednesday. Stewart found the men about three miles offshore -- sunburned, dehydrated and exhausted.
Trumble and Ketcham were in stable condition Thursday at Oswego Hospital. The other two men were released from the hospital Thursday morning.
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