A father and son were swept out to sea near Daytona Beach in Florida, in the late-afternoon. Walter and Christopher Marino had been swimming together when Christopher got caught in a current. Walter, his father, paddled rapidly to retrieve him and both were pulled out to sea very quickly.
Angela, Walter’s daughter, was on the beach when it happened, and quickly called 911. The Coast Guard and Volusia County Beach Patrol began a search-and-rescue effort, but had been unable to locate them before darkness fell.
This left Christopher and Walter treading water through the night. As the two were treading water, they began to float apart. To keep some form of contact, Walter began to say things that Christopher would respond to. The one that elicited the most response was the phrase “To Infinity …and Beyond!” from Disney and Pixar’s Toy Story.
There came a point when Christopher had floated too far away from Walter, and he could no longer hear his son’s response to the phrase. What kept Walter going was a number of things. First, his son’s lack of fear had a calming effect. The other is that, if his son was truly gone, he would survive so that his daughter didn’t lose both of them.
Fishermen found and rescued Walter around 7:30 am, the next morning. The Coast Guard then took Walter aboard their search-and-rescue vessel, where he opted to stay on-board during the search for Christopher. He did stay below deck, though. He couldn’t bear to be on deck, with the chance to see his son floating facedown in the water.
Two hours later, the Coast Guard called him up to the deck.
“That was my Green Mile,” he told Lauer. “I thought they wanted me to come up and identify the body. Those three steps, I just needed help to get to the top. I got up there and they pointed to the helicopter and said, “See that helicopter over there? That has your son, and he’s fine.”
Christopher was picked up about three miles from where his father was found, which was about eight miles from shore.