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7 survive 20 hours afloat off Florida Keys

MARATHON, Fla. -- Four hours into a family fishing trip off the Florida Keys, rough waves flipped a 22-foot boat, tossing eight people overboard. Seven of them, including a 4-year-old girl, survived by clinging desperately to their capsized vessel and a small blue cooler for almost 20 hours, suffering exhaustion, jellyfish stings and hypothermia.

The matriarch of the group, 79 years old, was presumed drowned. Those rescued were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The family left Layton in the Middle Keys around 8 a.m. Saturday in less-than-ideal conditions. It was raining, seas topped 7 feet and winds were whipping up to 38 mph. After they anchored 3 1/2 miles off the island chain, two waves hit suddenly, capsizing the vessel.

The women grabbed the girl and the 2 1/2-foot cooler. One man tried to rescue his mother, but she slipped through his grasp and disappeared into the water. The three women and girl and three men drifted apart.

Nearly a day later, Sunday morning, a commercial fisherman spotted the men and alerted the Coast Guard, which found the women and the blue cooler several miles away.

As weather improved Sunday, fishing boat captain David Jensen headed out to catch live bait. In the distance, he saw a man waving, holding on to the bow of the sunken boat. Then he realized there were three men. One put on a life jacket thrown to them and swam to the boat. The others were nonswimmers. One of Jensen's customers jumped in and helped the other two men, one at a time, back to Jensen's boat.

Zaida San Jurjo Gonzalez died. Her son, Jorge Alejo Gonzalez, survived along with his wife, Tomasa Torres, the elderly woman's daughter, Elena G. Gonzalez and her boyfriend Juglar Riveras.

Also rescued were Jorge and Elena Gonzalez's uncle, Jose Miguel De Armas, his wife, Yunisleidy Lima Tejada, and their daughter, Fabiana De Armas Lima, 4. All are from South Florida.

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