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Capsized Boating Survivor Recalls Experience

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader

Last week three Cookeville men left for fishing trip, not knowing their boat would capsize.

Karim Odeh and Kevin LaRoche, both residing in Cookeville, were visiting Kevin’s father, Mark LaRoche, in Florida. They boated over 15 miles west of Bayport when they sailed into a storm.

“There was kinda a light in between two extremely dark clouds, so we tried to go through the middle,” LaRoche said. “Once you’re in the storm you just kinda gotta go through it. Just the waves, we were in a fairly small boat, a 22 foot bay boat. We just got in a bad spot, we took on too much water, the boat slowly tilted over, and we jumped in the water.”

LaRoche said the storm was so much worse than he could have imagined. The wind and rain blinded the three men as the boat sailed over 8 foot waves. He said the most terrifying part was while they were still in the boat.

Before the boat capsized, LaRoche radioed the Coast Guard their co ordinance and the men strapped on their life jackets. The trio floated in the water for about an hour before a Coast Guard helicopter flew out to rescue them.

“As soon as we saw it, it was just the most amazing wave of relief I’ve ever had, really, in my life,” La Roche said. “It was unbelievable. It’s kinda the same feeling while you’re waiting for your turn at the doctor’s office, it’s just the anticipation you’re just waiting but you know, just scarier.”

LaRoche said the accident could have been a lot worse. The radio could not have worked, someone could have been injured, or they could have lost their life jackets in the storm. He said although this was not a survival story, it was still a scary experience.

Mark LaRoche and his wife moved to Florida in March. This was Kevin’s first visit since the start of the pandemic.

“After everything went wrong, these men did everything right,” said helicopter co-pilot Lt. Tim Keily, according to a press release. “They immediately called for help, wore their life jackets, and stayed with their boat.”


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