The year was 1961. In the waters of the Bahamas, passengers on a freight carrier spotted something in the distance. What they spotted out in the water turned out to be a little girl floating on a raft.
The girl on the float turned out to be Terry Jo Duperrault. At 11 years old, she went on a family vacation with her father Arthur Duperrault, an eye doctor, and her mother, Jean Duperrault.
The family vacation consisted of Terry, her older brother Brian and younger sister Renee, and their parents. The plan was to rent a yacht, the Bluebell, in Fort Lauderdale and sail to the Bahamas.
Captain Julian Harvey
The yacht was captained by Julian Harvey. The family and Harvey set sail on November 8, 1961 from Fort Lauderdale. Along with the family, Captain Harvey’s wife joined them for the first four days of the trip.
The family’s first stop was the Bimini islands. While visiting the islands they snorkeled with tropical fish and relaxed on the beaches.
As the family stayed on Sandy Point for a few days, Dr. Dupperault had such a wonderful time that he said, “This has been a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. We’ll be back before Christmas.” Sadly, he wouldn’t live until the holidays.
Terry decided to take a nap on the yacht during the day of November 12th. It would be just hours later that she would wake up to her older brother screaming in terror.
50 years after this terrible accident, Terry, or Tere now, recalls the event in a Fox News interview. “I was awakened by my brother screaming, ‘Help, daddy, help.’ It was the type of scream that you know that something horrible is happening,” she said.
Unfortunately, the Dupperaults didn’t do a thorough background check on their captain. It turns out Harvey had other plans than watching a family enjoy their vacation. He planned to throw his wife overboard on the ship, report it, and then claim the life insurance policy he had taken out on her.
Through more research into Harvey’s past, it was discovered that his first wife had died in a car accident. He also collected insurance money on his dead wife. Harvey was no stranger to insurance fraud, he also collected money on a sunken powerboat and yacht before.
Dr. Duperrault caught Harvey trying to murder his wife and throw her overboard. As the doctor tried to stop Harvey, he was killed in the process. Harvey saw only one other choice, he had to murder the rest of the family because they all knew what had happened. The only one who survived was Terry.
After hearing the screams of her murdered family, Terry went to the deck and saw her family dead in a pool of blood. Confused as to what happened, Terry approached Harvey to see what happened.
Harvey locked Terry in the cabin of the boat. Scared and unsure of her future, Terry hid in the cabin. Suddenly, she noticed that the cabin started to fill up with water.
Unsure what to do, Terry ran back up to the deck and came face to face with Harvey again. He gave her a rope attached to a raft to hold, possibly to distract her while he went back on the yacht to look for something to kill her with.
Terry was too smart for Harvey. She knew that she couldn’t trust the captain. So, rather than holding the rope while he went to probably go look for a weapon to kill her she let go.
When Terry let go of the rope and the raft started to float away from the yacht that Harvey was searching. As she saw her only chance at survival floating away, she jumped on the cork raft. When Harvey noticed that the raft was leaving, he dove in the water and started to swim after the raft and Terry.
Terry was able to escape from Harvey on the raft and he never made it to her. She was no all lone in the Atlantic Ocean with no predictions for the future.
The only thing that could save little Terry was a passing ship that would hopefully notice her floating in the water. As she waited, she became very sunburned, starved, and dehydrated.
At one point she noticed creatures swimming beneath the surface. At first, she thought it was a shark. Luckily it was just some curious porpoises. At one point, she noticed a plane flying above, but they didn’t notice her.
Terry was beginning to hallucinate from the elements. She had a fever of 105 and was very close to dying. When Captain Theo discovered her, they brought her on board.
Harvey survived the sinking of the ship and was discovered floating in the water with the dead body of Terry’s little sister. According to Harvey, there was a terrible storm that capsized the yacht and killed everyone.
Before the authorities could catch Harvey in his lies, he committed suicide in his hotel room.
A memorial was put up in Fort Howard Memorial Park in Wisconsin for the Duperrault family. The stone has the names of all of the family members and gives Terry a place to go and remember her family.
Terry lived with her aunt and cousins once she recovered from her illness. However, the night of her family’s murder still haunted her. It would be twenty years before she finally spoke about it.
Terry decided to go for counseling and work through her traumatic memories. She then co-authored her book, Alone: Orphaned on the Ocean, where she talked about her experience.
When the book came out, people from Terry’s past came out to support 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,” Terry explains