TikTok is becoming a powerful tool to share stories of triumph, inspiration, and the universal human experience. Earlier in January, it helped share the joyous moment a family was reunited with a young man who was lost at sea.
A viral TikTok video showed the moment a Florida family’s rescue mission came to a positive conclusion after their 22-year-old son was founds — having gone missing for several hours.
How One Family’s Nightmare Turned Into a Joyous Reunion
Natives of Key West, Florida, the Gartenmayer family was known to many in their community as avid free divers and spear-fishers.
Their pastime turned terrifying one unassuming afternoon when 22-year-old Dylan went missing at sea for several hours.
An experienced diver, Dylan was swept out in the dominant Gulf Stream current, eventually sending panic to his family who began searching for him when he didn’t return.
The rescue mission was shared on TikTok by Dylan’s cousin, Priscilla. In a viral video that has amassed over 32 million views, she shared a video of the family on their boat, travelling to Dylan’s last known coordinates.
In the widely shared video, the Gartenmayer family can be heard shouting Dylan’s name from their boat, as the sunlight dwindles.
According to the video’s caption, the Coast Guard had already been searching for Dylan for hours — to no avail. In a stroke of luck, the family arrives at the young diver’s location to find him floating — to heartwarming cheers of excitement and relief.
The video has racked up nearly 5 million likes on TikTok, with many users commenting on the incredible fortune to find him in such an unlikely scenario.
“I don’t think anybody understands this is basically like winning lottery odds that they found him… incredibly lucky,” one user writes.
Stories such as this, that unfold on TikTok, offer a unique perspective as they develop in real-time —from within. The story of Dylan Gartenmayer’s rescue plays out in numerous videos, such as Priscilla’s followed up video, showing Dylan getting into the boat.
She reveals how Dyaln had a low-core temperature when he was rescued, but was overall in good health. She also captures the moment he is reunited with his family, as they embrace.
After getting rescued, Dylan spoke to followers on his own social media account, detailing exactly what happened.
How a Young Diver Survived Being Stranded Alone at Sea
NBC spoke with Dylan, who told the publication he was free diving with two friends when the water conditions worsened. They all decided to go back to land but Dylan wanted to get in one more dive. “So I ran back out and that’s where everything started happening,” he recounted.
Dylan said he was free diving at about 35 feet when the current swept him out to waters as deep as 150. He was under water for almost two minutes, while holding his breath. “So that’s how I ended up getting separated,” said Dylan. “…[my friends] were mainly looking down, thinking I blacked out from a lack of oxygen.” In fact, he surfaced about a mile away, clutching bamboo he found drifting.
The rescue that ensued captured the hearts of many.
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Dylan admitted he could see the Coast Guard’s blue flashing lights in the distance and a helicopter — at the same the Gartenmayer family was mobilizing their own rescue mission.
Speaking to NBC, Dylan’s mother Tabitha said the family received a call from her ex-husband, Tab, claiming “something’s wrong with Dylan,” who hadn’t been seen for an hour.
“From that moment on, this feeling came over me, just like this, and I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t talk,” she said. Not one to be paralyzed by the emotion, she acted quickly, urging the family to drop their boat, and speed down the canal to search for her son.
It was Dylan’s friend, Joel, who spotted two floating buoys that Dylan had cleverly fashioned into a raft. Priscilla’s other TikTok videos capture the moment the boat finally gets to him and pulls him on board. “My mom took my dive gear,” Dylan recalled. “She just started hugging, crying.”
Their relief is palpable and touched the hearts of millions.
“Too often missing diver cases don’t have positive outcomes, and the circumstances of this case didn’t forecast for one,” said Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator, Lieutenant Commander Elizabeth Tatum. “Sunset, weather conditions and Dylan’s outfit were playing against us in this case, but his foresight to lash mooring balls together to make him a bigger target in the water was smart.”
Miraculously, Dylan gets the chance to dive again, and says he fully intends to do so.