Clinging To Life
In 1961 as a freight carrier sailed the waters near the Bahamas, they stumbled upon something they never thought they’d see. In the distance, they spotted a young girl on a cork raft, barely clinging on to life. They began to wonder how she ended up floating along the Atlantic ocean and what she would share with them would shock everyone.
11-year-old Terry Jo Duperrault and her family set off on a trip that was supposed to be the most memorable of their lives, but instead, it would turn out to be their worst nightmare. Her father, Dr. Arthur Duperrault was an eye doctor from Green Bay, Wisconsin and was ready to take his family on an adventure. Her mother, Jean, was ready for the trip they had been saving up for, for years.
A Family Event
They brought along their three children Brian, 14, Terry Jo, 11, and Renee, 7 hoping to show them the time of their lives. They were going to start out from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, renting a 60-foot yacht to take them all around the Bahamas.
Bluebell needed a full-time captain, and that was the well trained Julian Harvey. On November 8th, 1961, the family set out, excited for what they were about to experience. The captain had brought his wife Mary Dene along for the ride, and for the first four days, everything went according to plan.
The first leg of the trip the Bluebelle set off towards the islands of Bimini, heading east. They also visited Sandy Point, a lovely community on the island of Great Abaco. There they had they chance to snorkel and enjoy the gorgeous beaches the island had to offer.
While at Sandy Point, it’s reported that Arther spoke to the village commissioners, Roderick W. Pinder. He told him “This has been a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. We’ll be back before Christmas.” Little did he know, he wouldn’t live that long.
On the evening of November 12th, Terry Jo decided to go to bed early after a long day of adventures. As she laid her head down to rest, she never would have expected to wake up to an unimaginable scenario. A few hours later, she woke up to her brother screaming.
A Horrible Occurrence
Nearly 50 years later, Terry, who now goes by the name Tere Duperrault Fassbender, opened up to Fox News about the horrible event. “I was awakened by my brother screaming ‘Help, daddy, help,’” she said. “It was the type of scream that you know that something horrible is happening.”
A Longtime Plan
It turns out, Captain Harvey had a checkered past, and had ominous plans for this trip. He had planned to murder his wife, throw her overboard, and report her lost at sea. Months earlier he had taken out an insurance policy on her, and now he was trying to cash in.
Harvey was no newbie when it came to losing a wife. His previous wife died in a horrific car accident which he survived. He also had received insurance money for a yacht and powerboat had sank. It turns out, he was a terrible person who was now about to do something much worse.
Murder On The Boat
While Harvey was attempting to kill his wife, Dr. Duperrault saw the entire altercation and tried to help Dene. Harvey ended up killing them both, and then went on to kill the rest of the family because they witnessed the crime. Terry Jo was spared, only because she was sleeping.
A Horrific Scream
When Terry Jo awoke hearing her family’s screams, she saw them lying in a pool of blood. Knowing they were dead, she emerged from her cabin to see what was going on. Unfortunately, she went to the very person who caused all the horror.
Harvey pushed her back down into the cabin where she stayed, hiding and frozen with fear. She didn’t leave that spot until she noticed something that would cause her to panic even more. The cabin started filling with water, and she knew she had to do something to survive.
Confused and terrified, Terry left the cabin where she came into contact with Harvey again. He gave her a rope to hold onto, many think it was to distract her while he tried to kill her. However, then something happened.
To Smart For Harvey’s Plan
As the open valves caused water to rush into the boat, time was ticking. Terry Jo, even in her young mind, knew she couldn’t trust Harvey. She didn’t hold onto the rope, so Harvey’s final plan was ruined. Her friend, Logan, speculated what was about to happen and shared his theory with Fox,“When he saw her on deck, he realized ‘Oh my God, there’s a possibility that she might survive. I better kill her.’ So he went forward to get a knife or something to kill her. But she did not hold onto the line.”
She immediately dropped the rope, sending the life raft out to sea. Seeing his only escape vessel floating away, Harvey dove in after it and left her alone on a sinking ship, but alive. She was terrified, but she was determined to survive.
With minutes to spare, Terry Jo found the cork life raft, jumped onto it, barely escaping the sinking ship. Traumatized and in shock, she was unsure of what the future held for her. But she was alive, even if just for now.
Her only hope of survival was being noticed by a passing ship, an unlikely scenario. The nights almost froze her to death, while the daytime left her skin severely burned. She was dehydrated and starving, and it was clear there wasn’t much time.
One day, a strange creature had passed right beneath her, terrifying her even more. Luckily, it wasn’t a predator, but a pod of porpoises just curious as to what was going on. An aircraft even flew right over her, but didn’t notice the desperate little girl. She thought she would never be found, but fortunately, her luck changed.
Just as the elements were causing her to hallucinate, the crew on board of the Captain Theo rescued her. She had a fever of 105 and was no near death she had lost consciousness. One of the crew members managed to snap a photo of her upon rescue, a photo that would hit the headlines of almost every news outlet.
Three days before Terry Jo was rescued, Harvey was found on his float along with the dead body of Terry’s seven year old sister Renee. He claimed that a storm had caused a fire which eventually capsized the boat, also stating that he attempted to save the child, but was unsuccessful.
His story obviously didn’t match Terry’s account of what went down, and authorities were ready to make their move. Before they could, they found his lifeless body in his hotel room. Harvey had taken his own life.
Eventually, Terry Jo’s family was able to memorialized their loved ones that were lost that tragic night. The Fort Howard Memorial Park in Wisconsin is where the plaque is located, and it states,“In memory of the Arthur W. Duperrault Family; Lost off the Bahama Isles Nov. 12, 1961. Found in the hearts of their loved ones, dwelling forever with him who is eternal life. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Trying To Move On
Terry Jo went back to Wisconsin and lived with her aunt and three cousins. She never got over the horrific events that went down that cruel night, but she did move on. Over twenty years went by before she spoke of the horror she survived.
Alone: Orphaned on the Ocean
After opening up to a few friends, she decided to receive counseling to try and put the unimaginable behind her. Then, she decided to co-author a book detailing her account, called Alone: Orphaned on the Ocean. The book was finally published for the public in 2010.
People From Her Past
People from her past came to see her at her book signings, apologizing for not doing more for her. “We had a book signing last month and some of my teachers from 49 years ago showed up, just to see that I was alright after all these years. They said they were sorry for not being able to talk to me and help. In those years, they were told to pretend like it never happened. I learned to live with staying quiet.”