Nick Schuyler Provides the Grim Details


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↵Nick Schuyler, the lone survivor of the boating tragedy in St. Pete, is telling an eerie tale of how the other three -- Marquis Cooper, Corey Smith and Will Bleakley -- likely lost their fight to survive: ↵
↵⇥Schuyler, 24, told investigators that about two to four hours after their boat capsized Saturday in rough seas, one of the two professional football players gave up hope and let himself be swept away, according to family members of two of the missing men. ↵⇥

↵⇥A few hours later, the second one did the same. ↵⇥

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↵⇥"We were told that Nick said the two NFL players took their life jackets off and drifted out to sea," said Bob Bleakley, whose son Will, 25, is also still missing. ↵⇥

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↵⇥With former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Marquis Cooper and Corey Smith gone, only Schuyler and Bleakley remained clinging to the boat. ↵⇥

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↵⇥Then, sometime Monday morning, Will Bleakley thought he saw a light in the distance and decided to take off his life jacket and swim to it, hoping to get help. ↵⇥

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↵People at the far end of human capacity do not often make rational decisions. Nick Schuyler's story of Cooper and Smith -- two NFL players in the prime of life and in phenomenal shape -- taking off their life jackets and floating away to their presumed deaths may seem totally unreal to the reader. The boat was not that far off shore, rescuers were on the way, and most importantly, the men had each other for support, a vital element in any survival situation. ↵

↵But what had been a casual fishing trip became a survival situation quickly once their boat capsized, and at that point all the normal assumptions about decision-making go out the window. Sleep-deprivation was one element. Fear was another. Both of which could cause the men to become delusional, as may have been the case with Bleakley, who decided to swim towards a light that may, or may not, have actually been real. ↵

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↵There are many documented instances of those lost at sea making irrational, confused, and otherwise incomprehensible decisions. A man and his sons from the 1816 wreck of the French ship the Medusa, relatively safe on a life raft with other survivors, opted to walk into the water rather than wait out a possible rescue. (The survivors were picked up by a ship shortly afterwards.) The journals of the survivors of the S.S. Essex, the real life inspiration for Moby Dick, document all sorts of bizarre behavior as they drifted in lifeboats, up to and including crewmen drinking seawater in a deluded attempt to quench their thirst. ↵

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↵Those stories involve far greater extremes than those faced by Cooper, Smith, and Blakely, but one common dynamic applies: thrown into the unknown, the men had to rely on their instincts and limited understanding of the situation. If true, Cooper and Smith chose to embrace the end rather than wait, and as irrational as it seemed, it made sense to them at the time. Sometimes, though, the best thing to do in a survival situation may be the most difficult of all: waiting and doing nothing. For men trained to make plays and dictate what happens to them rather than the other way around, this may have been the most difficult option of all. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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