Crawfisherman rescued after spending 24 hours stranded in swamp
BREAUX BRIDGE - A professional crawfisherman was rescued Sunday after spending an entire 24 hours on his boat in the Atchafalaya Basin.
Philip Decoux, 70, went out to check his crawfish traps Saturday morning. He sets about 200 traps, and that day, he caught 11 bags of crawfish before his day took a turn for the worse.
"I started my motor and went about 20 yards or so and the motor died. Like somebody had just pulled the kill switch, turned the key off and that was it. And I said to myself... this is not good," Decoux said.
Decoux waited about an hour for his engine to cool off, then tried again, but to no avail. His boat motor was dead and he was stranded in the middle of the Atchafalaya Basin without cell phone service.
All he could do was make himself visible and wait for someone to find him.
"I told myself nobody's going to come until they realize I'm missing. And I told my wife I'll be back at the landing for 12 o'clock like normal."
Decoux's daughter Rachel says she began to worry when her dad's boat wasn't home by 4 p.m. At nightfall, the family began to panic and the rescue efforts started shortly after.
"He always keeps situations under control. I wasn't worried as much about his safety as much as just... where is he?" Rachel Aguillard said.
Aguillard says she made a Facebook post in a community group and instantly started receiving phone calls from strangers willing to help search for her father.
Forrest White was preparing to set his traps around 4 a.m. Sunday morning when he came across Aguillard's post. He says he knows the area well and decided to spend his day participating in the search.
While the St. Martin Parish Sheriff's Office, along with the Coast Guard and United Cajun Navy navigated the dark swamps of Acadiana throughout the night, Decoux stayed put in the middle of a lake where he knew he would be easily spotted.
Eventually, Decoux heard a Coast Guard helicopter. Once they located him, they dropped a beacon and then left.
"I figured they were going to get some fuel and come right back. They knew where I was," Decoux said.
Soon after, White spotted Decoux's boat and rescued him.
"A few minutes later he emerged into the lake...drove up to me and asked me if I needed a ride and I said 'Yeah, that would be nice'."
"Oh he was excited when we pulled up to him. He said he spent the night in the woods and he was ready to go!" White said.
With Decoux's boat and bags of crawfish in tow, the men headed back to the landing where they were greeted by a crowd of people.
"Just a rollercoaster of adrenaline and emotions. It was probably the wildest thing that I've ever experienced to be honest," Aguillard said.
The Decoux family would like to thank everyone involved in the search and rescue for Philip.
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