Drunk captain crashed our boat then sharks ate my friends one by one as I was stranded in bloody sea for 5 days

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DEBORAH Scaling-Kiley watched in terror as killer sharks pulled her crewmate Mark Adams beneath the surface and the sea turned red with blood.

The 24-year-old had been on a routine sailing trip from Maine to Florida when her boat was engulfed in a tropical storm and capsized in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

 Survivors Brad Cavanagh and Deborah Scaling-Kiley in the only picture taken from the rescue boat

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Survivors Brad Cavanagh and Deborah Scaling-Kiley in the only picture taken from the rescue boat
 Deborah Scaling-Kiley watched as three of her friends were eaten by sharks

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Deborah Scaling-Kiley watched as three of her friends were eaten by sharksCredit: Getty Images – Getty

The group of five had set out in perfect sailing conditions just four days earlier. But two days into the journey, the yacht capsized throwing Deborah and her pals into the ocean.

One of her crew mates, Meg, slashed her leg in the struggle – turning the group into a magnet for great white sharks – who came from all around when they detected blood in the water.

Luckily, they managed to clamber into a life raft – but within hours hundreds of killer sharks began circling and even ramming the boat in an attempt to dislodge the terrified crew members.

Over the next five days, three of the crew were eaten by sharks as Deborah and fellow survivor Brad watched on in horror.

To mark Discovery’s Shark Week 2021, we retell the epic battle for survival.

Drunk crew and a terrifying tropical storm

When Deborah, from Texas, greeted Captain John Lippoth and his girlfriend Meg Mooney in Bar Harbour, Maine, before boarding the 58-foot yacht, the weather looked promising.

Yachtsman Brad and Englishman Mark Adams were also on board – and the crew’s job was to sail up the East Coast of America and drop the yacht off to its new owner in Florida.

Deborah was looking forward to the six day, 1,300-mile trip in 1982.

“The weather was beautiful, the boat was fun to steer,” she revealed in the US show I Shouldn’t Be Alive. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”

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But on the second day the weather took a turn for the worse, and, as night fell, the yacht hit a terrifying tropical storm.

As 30-feet waves crashed against the mast and 70mph winds battered the sails, the Captain, who had been drinking heavily, fell asleep at the helm.

Deborah was woken in the middle of the night by panicked voices and found icy water pouring into the cabin.

The boat was capsizing and Meg fell against some rigging, badly cutting her leg.

Dehydrated, starving and surrounded by sharks

The panicked crew jumped into the water and Mark inflated an 11-foot dinghy – their only chance of survival.

The crew clambered in but, before he could join them, Mark felt something nudge his leg and Deborah was horrified to see hundreds of sharks in the water, swimming dangerously close to their boat.

“The minute we got in there were fins surrounding the dinghy,” she said. “They were everywhere.”

The killer creatures had been drawn to the blood from Meg’s open wound and had come from miles around to feast on any flesh they could find.

One of the sharks grabbed the rope on the front of the boat and started pulling it along in the water – taking the crew on a terrifying joy ride.

When that failed, the sharks began to ram the tiny boat in a bid to topple them out.

Great White Sharks

  • Great white sharks are found in coastal waters all over the world.
  • They have over 300 teeth, and can travel at an incredible 60 mph – making them one of the most dangerous predators in the ocean.
  • On average, there are between 5-10 great white shark attacks on humans every year.
  • They have an incredible sense on smell – if there was only one drop of blood in 100 litres of water, a great white would smell it.
  • Great whites can live for 70 years.
  • The great white shark is one of only a few sharks known to regularly lift its head above the sea surface to gaze at other objects such as prey.

‘We heard a blood-curdling scream and John was gone’

Hours turned into days and the starving crew became severely dehydrated.

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With urine and the blood and pus from Meg’s wounds sloshing about on the floor of the dinghy, the crew started developing infections all over their bodies.

Worse, Meg’s wounded leg became infected and blood poisoning began spreading through her body.

By day three, with infection and dehydration rife, the crew began to get delirious as their brains were starved of water.

All of a sudden we just hear this shrill scream. Blood-curdling. Then it was over, silence. There was no crying, nothing.

Deborah Scaling-Kiley

Desperate, John and Mark started to drink salt water – which accelerates dehydration and causes kidneys to shut down.

Before long John was hallucinating. He suddenly thought he saw land and jumped off the side of the boat.

His fate was sealed.

“All of a sudden we just hear this shrill scream. Blood-curdling. Then it was over, silence. There was no crying, nothing. There was no doubt what got him. The sharks got him,” Deborah recalls.

‘Horrifying moment’ as sharks ripped Mark apart under the boat

With Mark also delusional, and Meg weak from her blood poisoning, Brad and Deborah were the only ones left with their wits about them – and made a pledge to look out for each other.

Shortly after John’s death, Mark – who had been hallucinating for hours – mumbled that he was going to the convenience store to buy beer and cigarettes.

Despite Deborah and Brad’s attempts to bring him back to reality, he too plunged into the shark infested waters.

The sharks instantly moved in, banging against the bottom of the boat and spinning it round as they tore into Mark’s flailing body in a frenzied attack.

“It was by far the most horrifying moment of my entire life,” said Deborah.

‘We tried to sleep so we wouldn’t see Meg being eaten by sharks’

That night, as the infection in her blood took hold, Meg began having severe hallucinations.

“We were sitting there watching Meg die and it was tragic,” said Deborah.

When the remaining pair woke in the morning, she was dead – lying in the “fetid mess of seaweed, blood, urine and pus” on the floor.

Brad admits he considered eating her body in a desperate bid for survival – but Deborah warned him Meg was too infected and insisted they had to throw her off the boat.

They took off her shirt and jewellery to give to her family on their return.

“It was such a sad moment because we laid her naked body on the side of the raft and then we decided we couldn’t just roll her off. She needed some sort of funeral,” said Deborah.

“So we said the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 and we gently pushed her body overboard. Then we decided to go back to sleep so when the sharks attacked we wouldn’t have to see it.”

‘We were so happy to be alive’

In another terrifying moment, Brad fell in to the water while trying to clean the boat out – and Deborah broke down as he struggled to find the strength to get back in.

“I felt like I’d just doomed Brad to death,” she said. “If the sharks came back, he was dead.”

With a surge of adrenaline Brad managed to pull himself in and, moments later desperation turned to joy – as he spotted a Russian cargo ship on the horizon.

The pair waved frantically at the crew – who waved back – and soon they had thrown a life ring into the water inches from the boat.

The pair jumped into the water and were winched on board the ship.

“I didn’t care who these people were or where we were going,” said Deborah. “I was there and Brad was there and we were alive.”

 Deborah wrote a book about her ordeal in 1994

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Deborah wrote a book about her ordeal in 1994
 Brad Cavanagh tells his story in I Shouldn't Be Alive

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Brad Cavanagh tells his story in I Shouldn’t Be Alive
 A great white shark, similar to the ones that attacked the crew

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A great white shark, similar to the ones that attacked the crew

Deborah went on to become a motivational speaker and wrote a book – Albatross: The True Story of a Woman’s Survival at Sea – in 1994.

She died in 2012 at her home in Mexico, at the age of 54, from unknown causes.

Brad continues to work as a mariner in Massachusetts but says the ordeal has left him a changed man.

“It’s not something that you turn off once you’ve been through it,” he says. “You keep living in survival mode. I don’t know if you’re shell-shocked but it’s impossible to just turn it off and live the way you did before.”

  • A survivor of a World War II torpedo attack recently told The Sun he spent four days in the water as 600 men were ripped apart by sharks.



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