An amazing story of survival.
An elderly man floated in Devils Lake for 12 hours in a fight for his life, mostly under the shadow of darkness.
It was his wife of more than 40 years who called police, but she says it was prayers that helped her husband get to shore.
They’re calling it a miracle.
73-year-old LeRoy Throlson’s small fishing boat started taking on water on Devils Lake, Friday night about an hour before sunset.
Eventually, the lake would take his boat, but his family says it was because of his determination the lake would not take him too.
Eunice Throlson, wife: “Praying and hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.”
LeRoy’s a retired farmer, who went fishing on Friday and didn’t come home that night.
Eunice Throlson, wife: “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.”
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.
Eunice Throlson, wife: “We came over here and saw the pickup and the trailer, and that was the hardest.”
They knew something was wrong, and called authorities.
Steven Rohrer, sheriff: “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.”
His wife says he doesn’t always wear life jacket, but did on Friday and when his boat started going down.
LeRoy made one other important move as well.
Eunice Throlson, wife: “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.”
They’re estimating LeRoy battled the cold night in the 330 square mile lake for around 12 to 14 hours.
Eunice Throlson, wife: “Well he was watching the stars he said and I know he said he prayed the night wouldn’t last real long.”
Thankfully, for LeRoy’s sake, mother nature was on his side.
Steven Rohrer, sheriff: “If this was even two or three weeks down the road the water temperature is going to start changing real quick.”
Shortly after day-break, LeRoy hit highway 19 several miles away from where he launched his boat.
Eunice Throlson, wife: “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.”
They say it’s a miracle, and wasn’t a bad fishing day either.
Eunice Throlson, wife: “He lost some walleyes and he likes walleyes.”
Eunice says this won’t keep him from fishing in the future, he’ll just need a new boat.
Officials say the man was very cold and dehydrated when he came out of the water, but is recovering well.