A visibly shaken and emotional Rob Konrad held a news conference in Palm Beach to recall his nearly 16-hour ordeal of being forced to swim nine miles to shore after he had fallen off his fishing boat.
Konrad, 38, was aboard his 36-foot boat last Wednesday when he tripped and fell overboard as the vessel, which was on autopilot, drifted away from him. Konrad was forced to swim to shore and had to be hospitalized for hypothermia when he arrived on shore early Thursday morning. The boat was on autopilot at 5 mph, according to a Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office report.
Konrad, who was joined by his wife, Tammy, at the presser, had just been released from the hospital and recounted how he twice could have been spotted by the Coast Guard and another fisherman but was ultimately forced to have to get to shore on his own to survive.
Konrad told reporters that at one point, he spotted a recreational fishing boat about 50 yards from where he was and tried to wave it down. He also said the Coast Guard's helicopter search light passed right by him while he swam in the water.
"I saw the Coast Guard," he said. "They had come right over the top of me. They had their lights right on me and kept going. That's when I realized I was on my own."
According to the Coast Guard and the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office, Konrad had left from Boca Raton last Wednesday for a fishing trip that was expected to be a short outing. But Tammy and his friends became concerned after several hours of not hearing from him.
A Coast Guard helicopter was then dispatched to search for Konrad and the vessel.
Konrad was able to swim his way back to the Palm Beach County shoreline, eventually getting there around 4:30 a.m. Thursday. He then walked over to an oceanfront mansion reportedly owned by the late Palm Beach attorney Robert Montgomery and called the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office.
Konrad was found wearing nothing but his underwear. He was immediately treated for hypothermia.
"I was treated for hypothermia and severe dehydration," a subdued but emotional Konrad revealed. "I'm very thankful to be here."
Konrad said that when he arrived on shore, he crawled onto the beach, his body shaking uncontrollably from the hypothermia.
"I've been a boater my whole life," he said. "I shouldn't be here."
Konrad said he was in the ocean for about 16 hours and was bitten by all manner of creatures, including jellyfish. He also said he spotted at least one shark circling him just as the sun was setting.
Once the sun went down, Konrad said, and he realized his boat was gone, he made a conscious decision to swim to shore.
"Once the sun went down, the weather got very rough," he said. "I realized maybe I can do this. I made a conscious decision to swim. I took my shirt off, to keep resistance off. I swam to keep my body warm. After about probably about five hours, I said 'I can do this. I'm going to swim all night and hit the shore.'
Konrad said he thought of his two young daughters to keep his spirits up, his eyes welling with tears.
"After some time, I just said, 'I'm not dying tonight.' I have two beautiful daughters. I'm hitting that shore."
"Rob is a very powerful man," Tammy said. "When he sets his mind on something, he goes after it. Our children are his world. He had two angels on his back."
Konrad said he followed the sun while there was still light out, then followed the lights of the shore at night. He said he did the backstroke and breaststroke throughout and kept fighting mentally.
He also revealed that his boat kept going all the way into Bahamian waters, where it was found in Dead Man's Reef in Grand Bahamas. He expects to get his boat back sometime this week.
Prior to the news conference, CNN spoke with a nationally renowned long-distance swimmer, who said what Konrad was able to pull off is incredibly difficult.
"When I heard about this, I was like, 'Wow!'" said Sid Cassidy, a distance swimmer who has five times swum the 22-mile course around Atlantic City, New Jersey.
"If you're a good swimmer and you're faced with an emergency, you could be capable of doing what he did," Cassidy said. "I'm saying it's possible. But it sure would be tough."
Cassidy, who is an aquatics director and head swimming coach for Saint Andrew's School in Boca Raton, added that a fit person could swim a mile within 30 minutes.
Konrad, who lives in Boynton Beach, played fullback for the Dolphins from 1999 to 2004. He rushed for 114 yards and one touchdown and caught 111 passes for 854 yards and six touchdowns. He also had a brief stint with the Raiders in 2005 before retiring.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says it's investigating the boating incident.
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