73-Year-Old Man Clings To Gas Can After Boat Sinks on Devils Lake

Published 08/31 2016 06:35AM

Updated 08/31 2016 06:35AM

WDAY/WDAZ News/Copyright 2016 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

"Praying and hoping for the best and preparing for the worst," says Eunice Throlson

That's Leroy's wife of 41-years. Leroy's a retired farmer, who went fishing on Friday and didn't come home that night.

"He's usually home by dark and usually out of the water by dark. 10:30 I was getting quite concerned, but then I thought, maybe he helped someone out, " says Eunice.

But, it was LeRoy who needed help. Strong southern winds caused some waves to crash over the side of his small fishing boat. He dropped anchor to try to stabilize the boat and bail the water, but it was too late.

LeRoy was in the water.

"We came over here and saw the pickup and the trailer, and  that was the hardest," says Eunice.

They knew something was wrong. And called authorities.

"You know I felt just terrible, but there's really nothing I could do at 12:30 in the morning. So, I told them I'd be out at the lake at about 5:30, 6 o'clock right at daylight I'd be paging search and rescue and game and fish," says Sheriff Steven Rohrer, Benson County.

His wife says he doesn't always wear life jacket, but did on Friday and when his boat started going down he made one another important move.
"He saw the gas can floating. It was half full, it was floating and he thought this might come in handy. So he grabbed it and, basically, he floated and swam with that all night," says Eunice.

They're estimating 12 to 14 hours Leroy battled the cold night in the 330 square mile lake.

"Well he was watching the stars he said and I know he said he prayed the night wouldn't last real long," says Eunice.

Thankfully, for LeRoy's sake mother nature was on his side.

"If this was even two or three weeks down the road the water temperature is going to start changing real quick," says Rohrer

Shortly after day-break LeRoy hit highway 19 several miles away from where he launched his boat.

"I mean, I just, I screamed. My sister said she knew it was a good scream, or, yelled or something. It was what we all hoped and prayed for, but, probably not, I wasn't thinking that'd be the outcome," says Eunice.

They say it's a miracle, and wasn't a bad day fishing either.

"He lost some walleyes and he likes walleyes," says Eunice.

Eunice says this won't keep him from fishing in the future, he'll just need a new boat. Maybe a bigger boat?

Officials say the man was very cold and dehydrated when he came out of the water, but is recovering well.

Copyright 2016 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.