Navy man recalls harrowing fall

The Associated Press
Wednesday October 23, 2002

SAN DIEGO — A Navy sailor says he feels lucky to have survived an aircraft carrier accident that left him floating in the frigid Pacific Ocean for more than seven hours. 

Michael Harris, 21, fell from the USS Constellation early Saturday when the engine exhaust from a nearby EA-6B Prowler blew him overboard off the coast of Southern California. 

In the darkness of the early morning, it took rescuers more than seven hours to find the airman apprentice, who is based at Lemoore Naval Air Station, and pull him from the 62-degree waters. 

“They teach you not to panic,” he said Monday at a naval hospital. “My first reaction was ’They’ll find me.’ “ 

But as time passed Harris began to worry about dying of hypothermia and whether sharks might home in on the blood oozing from facial injuries he sustained in the accident. 

Harris, of Dillsburg, Penn., also thought about his mother and his younger brother.