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Missing St. Augustine boater gives 'hang loose' hand sign after rescue 🤙

First Coast News was there when Charles Gregory's family learned he was found alive. He's been missing since Thursday. The family says they never gave up hope.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Missing St. Augustine boater Charles Gregory, 25, was found alive Saturday morning 12 miles offshore on a mostly submerged 12-foot jon boat, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

First Coast News was there when Gregory's family learned he was found alive. His mother gave many tearful hugs, saying she was "elated" and his father said he'd given up hope.

Gregory was brought back to shore at the Vilano Beach Fishing Pier, where he was wheeled on a stretcher to an ambulance. He gave First Coast News the “hang loose” hand sign as he passed.

“Everybody, we just want to say thank you so much,” said his mother, Debra Gregory.

Gregory’s parents spent more than 24 hours fearing the worst. The U.S. Coast Guard says he'd been last seen Thursday night, his vehicle was parked at the Lighthouse Park boat ramp Friday morning and the U.S. Coast Guard was called out at about 5:00 p.m. that evening.

“I gave up hope," said Gregory's father, Raymond Gregory. "I should never give up hope. Don’t give up on the big guy.” 

The U.S. Coast Guard rescue mission coordinator says when they couldn’t find Gregory in the Salt Run, rescue boats and aircraft searched for him in the ocean overnight. A screenshot of flight radar given to First Coast News by a rescue official shows the winding path of the aircraft that found him. 

“Not the kind of vessel you want to be on in an offshore environment," said U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Mission Coordinator Nick Barrow. "That’s kind of why all of the odds were starting to be against us in this case despite all of our search effort.” 

Barrow says this is a reminder to always bring all the safety and communication equipment you need when you go out on the water.

Missing #StAugustine boater Charles Gregory gives First Coast News the "hang loose" hand sign behind a paramedic as he's wheeled to an ambulance. His father says it's a miracle and that he'd given up hope. Gregory was missing for over 24 hours and found in a mostly submerged 12-foot jon boat 12 miles offshore, according to the U.S. Coast Guard Southeast.

Posted by Renata Di Gregorio News on Saturday, August 5, 2023

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