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South Jersey Woman Stranded At Sea 16 Hours

A college student from South Jersey says she was stranded at sea for 16 hours while swimming off Honduras and is now safe.

Heather Barnes
Heather Barnes (WPVI TV)

Barnes tells WPTV TV she was lying awake in a hammock contemplating her next steps as her trip was coming to an end when she decided to collect coral samples for a project she’s doing at New College of Florida at 4 a.m. Friday

As Barnes swam, wearing a wet suit and fins, she says she started to cramp and got pushed out to sea.

As she drifted and tried to figure out where the current would take her, she thought it was a practical joke.  “It sounds really strange now. The swells crashing over my head … felt like a boat was picking me up to save me,” she told  WPTV TV. “I sometimes felt like the ripples were thousands of stingrays. And a bubble was like a lion fish; all these poisonous and dangers things. I put up my fists to fight them.”

Barnes told WPVI TV that she accepted the possibility she may not make it back to shore. “I accepted that maybe I won’t make it, but then all of a sudden, I’m here. I have to keep going,” she said.

Writing on her Facebook page, Barnes says she realized she had to swim to try to reach safety. She 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. “Every single door on the island opened and people started pouring out … people started kissing me and hugging me. I was so confused,” she told WPTV TV. The Honduran military showed up to make sure it was her and that she was OK.

Barnes is in Florida at her grandmother’s home recovering from sunburn and jellyfish stings.She wants to return to the water after a break.

Her mother, Jennifer Dukelow of Woodbury, tells WPVI-TV that she prayed until her daughter called late Friday. ”About 10:45 Friday night the phone rang, and the most beautiful voice I ever heard on the other end said, ‘Mommy, I’m fine. I swam all day; I’m fine, I’m alive,’” Dukelow told the TV station.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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