SurvivalatSea 1stLd-Writethru 10-20

Lillian Ruth Simpson demonstrates how she covered her head and hung onto a water bag as a flotation device while spending the night in the Pacific Ocean.

Woman afloat for 19 hours

UKUMEHAME, Hawaii — A 49-year-old woman held onto a water container to stay afloat for 19 hours until she was rescued from choppy ocean waters a mile off Maui, she said. Lillian Ruth Simpson, of Juneau, Alaska, said she also wrapped her bathing suit top around her head to keep warm after sunset.

A fishing charter boat spotted her in the water Friday morning, dehydrated and sunburned. She was treated at a hospital and released. A buoy near where Simpson was floating registered an average water temperature of about 80 degrees this week, said National Weather Service forecaster Robert Ballard.

Simpson, who worked as a drug and alcohol counselor in Alaska, had been canoeing alone and paddled out to some tour boats Thursday morning to distribute invitations to a fundraiser for a documentary on youths and drugs. She already was tired from the effort when strong winds flipped her canoe, she said.


She called to a nearby charter boat for help, but she apparently was unable to attract anyone’s attention and it left. She tried for hours to right the canoe before giving up, she said. After trying to swim toward shore, Simpson spent a long night dozing off, accidentally swallowing sea water, throwing up and trying to keep warm.

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