‘There He Is!’: Key West Family Finds Son Swept Out to Sea in Viral Rescue Mission

Family members said Dylan Gartenmayer, 22, went missing at sea for several hours after getting caught in the powerful Gulf Stream current.

Gartenmayer exclaimed, “I had a bunch of floating bait all around me.” “I knew that there were sharks behind me and that those fish were eating the baits.” “I was ready to fight through the night, but I’m glad I didn’t have to.”

Tabitha Gartenmayer, Dylan’s mother, mentioned that their family has been residing in Key West for many generations.

“As locals of Key West, we adore the sea. I was spearfishing with Dylan in my womb,” expressed Tabitha.

Dylan mentioned that he has been engaging in diving and spearfishing since he was a child.

He expressed his desire to dive deep freely, stating that he would love to go over 100 feet with just a single breath, just like I do.

He said he was free diving Thursday while two of his friends kept a watchful eye on him from the boat above.

Dylan told NBC that the conditions on the water were getting worse by the minute, so they decided to head back to land.

However, before departing, he mentioned that he desired to squeeze in one additional diving experience.

“So I hurriedly ran back outside and that’s when everything began to unfold,” explained Dylan.

Tabitha exclaimed, “Moreover, we receive a phone call from my former spouse. ‘Tab, there is an issue with Dylan. They have not laid eyes on him for an entire hour.’ Subsequently, from that particular instant onward, an overwhelming sensation engulfed me, exactly like this, causing me to struggle for breath and rendering me speechless.”

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Dylan mentioned that he was swimming unrestrictedly at a depth of roughly 35 feet when he was carried away by a powerful current in waters that were approximately 150 feet profound.

He stated that he was submerged for nearly two minutes, continuously holding his breath.

Dylan remarked, “That’s the way I got separated. Due to a shortage of oxygen, I lost consciousness, assuming that they were primarily focusing downwards.”

He originally dived where he resurfaced about a mile away, while clutching bamboo and swimming just over a mile to a marker channel in the drifting water, as he told NBC 6.

Dylan expressed, “My bamboo had begun to drift apart from me.” I observed their azure lights, the helicopter in motion, executing their grid pattern. I spotted the Coast Guard in the far-off west direction from my location.

Meanwhile, the Gartenmayers were organizing their mission to rescue.

“[Tabitha] was strongly insisting, let go of that boat immediately,” said family friend Jamie Cooke.

Tabitha suggested, “We should hurry. Considering my son’s safety, it would be advisable to increase our speed while traversing the canal. I’m certain you’ve already watched the videos we made.”

Dylan had been absent for approximately three hours, as reported by the Gartenmayer family’s surveillance footage, indicating that he had been searching for something in the ocean while swiftly navigating through a canal.

With the United States Coast Guard searching by air and sea, the Gartenmayers went to the final known coordinates of Dylan.

“We had the coordinates that were provided to us, but he clearly wasn’t at those,” stated Tabitha.

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With their gaze fixed on the water, they continued to search.

“Joel gazes towards the right and he observes the buoys,” stated Tabitha.

She mentioned that Joel, a friend of Dylan, noticed a peculiar spectacle on the sea – buoys that seemed to be connected.

Dylan mentioned that he had sliced and fastened together what are commonly referred to as mooring balls to create an improvised raft.

Dylan mentioned that he ended up cutting three of those from the reef and then tied up a small hammock.

Shortly after noticing the markers, they saw Dylan.

Dylan said, “I could hear a boat humming behind me, and I was facing west, looking at the Coast Guard.”

The vessel Dylan heard approaching him was filled with his relatives and companions.

“My mother confiscated my scuba equipment. She suddenly began embracing me and shedding tears,” expressed Dylan.

Priscilla Gartenmayer, Dylan’s cousin, filmed the currently trending TikTok videos.

She and Dylan both developed their diving skills together as they grew up.

Priscilla said, “Dylan still has so much luck, just like us. You know, we know how emotional it was.”

The Coast Guard informed NBC 6 that they are thankful to learn that Dylan was discovered unharmed.

Lieutenant Commander Elizabeth Tatum, the Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator, expressed, “In this particular situation, Dylan’s outfit was playing against us, and the weather conditions at sunset were challenging. Dylan had the foresight to secure larger balls to moor together, making it easier for us to locate the target in the water.” She further added, “Unfortunately, in cases like this, where a diver goes missing, positive outcomes are not often expected due to the circumstances and the unpredictability of the forecast.”

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The family expressed that miraculously, Dylan gets the opportunity to dive for another day.

It’s something Dylan mentioned he fully plans to do again in the near future.

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