A Heart-Breaking Story of a Girl Found Alone in the Ocean

A Heart-Breaking Story of a Girl Found Alone in the Ocean

Lost, famished, scared, and drifting alone
in the open sea for almost 4 days on a tiny raft. And all that when she was just 11 years
old. That’s the unbelievable but true story of Terry Jo Duperrault, and you’ll be absolutely
shocked when you hear all of it. The story begins like your typical American
dream. It’s 1961, and Dr. Arthur Duperrault, a prominent optometrist from Green Bay, Wisconsin,
decided to take his family of five on a long-awaited vacation to the Bahamas. For this, he took
a luxury yacht from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to make the trip all the more exciting. Apart
from Dr. Duperrault’s wife and their 3 kids, there were his old friend Julian Harvey and
his young wife. Dr. Duperrault took Harvey along as his skipper because of his past as
a Marine and World War II vet. His experience at the sails and expertise in navigation gave
everyone confidence that the voyage would go marvelously. And the trip was going just as you could imagine:
sailing across the sunny seas, swimming in the ocean, bathing in the sun. Five days of
maritime paradise. Kids laughing, adults smiling, everyone was happy… or so it seemed. The
events that followed are fit to make your hair stand on end. Even now, more than fifty
years later, it’s hard for Terry Jo to speak of what happened on the fifth night, and you
really can’t blame her… The then 11-year-old girl was awakened by
a commotion from above her cabin. She heard stomping on the deck and recognized the voices.
Alarmed by the uproar, Terry Jo went outside her cabin and onto the deck only to see Julian
Harvey quickly walking towards her. Still uncomprehending, Terry Jo asked him
what was happening, but his only reply was an order to get back below the deck. Frightened
and shivering, Terry Jo complied, lay back into her bunk, and waited. All that followed
was stark silence. It was only when her cabin started filling with water that she dared
leave it again and take another look at what was going on. It turned out that Harvey had opened up the
yacht’s sea valves to sink it with everyone on board. There wouldn’t be any radio calls
for help or a joint effort to keep the ship from sinking – crazed Harvey had taken care
of that possibility. He and little Terry Jo were the only ones still alive… Seeing that she’d shown up on deck again,
the man approached her and gave her a rope tied to a dinghy. He told her to hold it,
and that she did. But when he left her for a brief second, what the girl did next would
end up saving her life in that moment: she let go of the rope, and the dinghy started
floating away from the yacht. Harvey panicked and dove down into the ocean
to catch up with the dinghy. Terry Jo, however, managed to keep her wits about her and remembered
there was a small cork lifeboat on the yacht as well. She untied it, threw it into the
water on the other side of the yacht so that Harvey couldn’t see her immediately, and
escaped the horrible scene. But the 11-year-old girl still had more surviving
to do. For the next 3½ days, she floated aimlessly on the little cork raft that was
becoming flimsier and more deteriorated with each passing day. The nights were freezing,
yet the scorching sun beat down on her during the day. How the little girl managed to hang
on to dear life is still beyond comprehension. But she was weak, and her strength was fading. That was how a Greek freighter called Captain
Theo found the little girl, and the ship’s crew just couldn’t believe their eyes when
they spotted her. In the tiny white lifeboat, a small, frail body sat all wet and completely
exhausted. When the crew took her on board, they saw she was severely dehydrated, sunburnt,
and fevered. The yacht the family had taken, which was called Bluebelle, was nowhere to
be seen; neither was Julian Harvey’s dinghy. They later found out Terry Jo had been stranded
for 84 grueling hours in her little escape vessel with no food, water, or shelter. It
was a miracle that she managed to survive this ordeal as well. When she came back to the mainland, she was
immediately rushed to the hospital. Soon enough, the photo Captain Theo’s crew had taken
of the little survivor before pulling her up onboard as well as the story behind the
whole ordeal made headlines across the world. So what had happened on board the Bluebelle
and how did a peaceful family vacation go so terribly wrong? As it turned out, the whole thing started
with Julian Harvey wanting to collect a $20,000 life insurance policy he’d drawn for his
wife of just four months. It struck him as very convenient that she should drown in the
ocean in an “accident.” It was later discovered that he’d been married five more times before
that, being the sole survivor of a car crash with one of his wives and her mother, and
had lost two sea vessels under suspicious circumstances. All these resulted in him collecting
sizeable amounts of money for the losses. So, the plot Harvey conspired was rather simple:
to fake an accident for his wife under the cover of night while everyone else on board
was asleep. In the morning, he’d tell them that she simply fell overboard and he couldn’t
save her. His plan, however, was thwarted when the Duperraults heard the commotion.
That’s when Harvey decided to get rid of any witnesses on board, and sink the boat
to conceal the evidence. He was probably getting ready to take care
of the last witness when he handed little Terry Jo that rope. Still, others believe
that he’d planned to let the girl escape because somewhere deep inside himself, he
wanted to get caught. Whatever the case, Terry Jo Duperrault escaped the man, which would
bring him to his ultimate demise. His dinghy had been found 3 days earlier than
Terry Jo’s raft. Another freighter, the Gulf Lion, picked Harvey up and gave him to
the US Coast Guard. He told the investigators that the Bluebelle’s masts had been broken
by strong winds in the open sea. As they fell, they tore through the yacht’s hull and made
a hole in a gas tank, which started a fire. According to Harvey, he was the only one left
alive. No one suspected him of committing any crimes yet. After a few days, however, he heard the news
of Terry Jo’s miraculous rescue. That’s when he knew there was no real escape for
him, and he’d be brought to justice for what he’d done. He decided he wouldn’t
let them get him alive, so he checked into a motel room and ended it there. That all happened in 1961, but no one knew
the whole story from the little survivor’s point of view for 20 long years. Terry Jo
didn’t want to speak about her incredibly traumatic experience to anyone. She needed
time to heal her wounds. In the 1980s, she finally found the strength
to open up a bit and discuss the tragic events on the Bluebelle with a few of her close friends.
Eventually, they convinced her to seek some professional help and support as well. Terry
Jo, by then a young woman already, took their advice and decided it was time to do something
about her past. Unsurprisingly, it was still haunting her. She did get the right care and,
at long last, found some relief from what she’d survived all those years prior. And the peak of her recovery was a book she
wrote with the help of psychologist Dr. Richard Logan called Alone: Orphaned on the Ocean.
It was published in 2010, almost 50 years after the events it describes, but it still
chills the souls of everyone who reads it. Terry Jo now goes by Tere Jo Duperrault-Fassbender,
and her book is signed as such. She confesses that writing it was the final step of her
healing process. In one interview, she said that she hoped her book would also help other
people with traumatic experiences overcome their tragedies and live on. It takes real strength of character to not
only survive such a nightmare at just 11 years old but to also talk publicly about such personal
events in your own life. Tere Jo is living proof that nothing can overcome the human
will to survive and keep moving forward! Do you know of any incredible stories of survival
and rescue? Share them in the comments below! If you learned something new today, then give
this video a like and share it with a friend. But – hey! – don’t go anywhere just
yet! We have over 2,000 cool videos for you to check out. All you have to do is pick the
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