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Survivor: Football players lost at sea took off lifejackets

The sole survivor of a tragic boating accident in the Gulf of Mexico told investigators that his three fishing companions, which included two NFL players, took off their lifejackets and drifted out to sea, according to a report in the St. Petersburg Times.

Nick Schuyler, 24, who was found Monday, said that two to four hours after the boat capsized, one of the NFL players gave up hope and removed his jacket. A few hours later, the second player did the same, according to the report. The four friends had been missing since Saturday.

-- Click to see photos of boating accident aftermath and rescue attempts

"We were told that Nick said the two NFL players took their life jackets off and drifted out to sea," said Bob Bleakley, whose son, Will, is also missing. Will Bleakley and Schuyler were teammates at the University of South Florida.

The NFL players, Marquis Cooper of the Raiders and free agent Corey Smith, drifted out to sea, leaving Schuyler and Will Bleakley near the boat, the report said. On Monday morning, however, Bleakley's father said he was told that his son "saw a light in the distance," took off his jacket and swam away.

"I think he was delusional to think he could swim someplace," Bleakley's father told the Times.

Schuyler held on and was picked up a day later after surviving 46 hours in 63-degree waters, according to a report by The Associated Press. Doctors said Schuyler had only about 10 hours left to live if he wasn't rescued.

The U.S. Coast Guard announced Tuesday night it was suspending its search after combing roughly 24,000 square miles of ocean, according to The Associated Press. Family members and friends continued the search into Wednesday.

-- Click to see photos of boating accident aftermath and rescue attempts


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