NJ Student Swept Out to Sea for 16 Hours

Heather Barnes cramped up while collecting coral samples in Honduras

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Jul 22, 2013 1:12 PM CDT

(Newser) – A college student from New Jersey says she was stranded at sea for 16 hours while swimming off Honduras and is now safe. Heather Barnes went to collect coral samples for a project she's doing at New College of Florida at 4am Friday when she says she started to cramp and got pushed out to sea. "I tried to stay in the same spot, thinking people would search for me soon," she told NBC Philadelphia. "But after two hours I still didn't see anyone. I realized if I was going to make it, I had to swim back myself."

Suffering from hallucinations, sunburn, jellyfish stings, and the realization that she might not survive, Barnes says she eventually reached land, where two people gave her water and used a kayak to take her back to the resort where she was staying. Turns out her classmates, professors, and even the Honduran navy were all searching for her, reports ABC Action News. "I felt like I cheated death or like I cheated the ocean out of something," she says. Barnes is in Florida recovering.

A warning sign is posted on the beach in this 2008 file photo.
A warning sign is posted on the beach in this 2008 file photo.   (AP Photo/Sandy Huffaker)
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