Riverhead police and three Good Samaritans rescued five people Sunday evening after their 8-foot-long paddleboat capsized in the Long Island Sound just offshore in Wading River.
The five victims, including a 7-year-old child, were in a small two-person paddleboat fishing in Long Island Sound about 9 p.m. when the boat flipped, tossing them into the water, according to police at the scene.
“They’re saying a wave came and flipped the boat,” said Riverhead police Sgt. Edward Frost. Three of the five victims, including the child, had life jackets on, he added.
Sgt. Frost said police received numerous calls from nearby residents who heard the victims calling for help in the water. A local resident, Danny Sackowitz, kayaked out to his power boat to help, police said. Mr. Sackowitz returned to shore and picked up Riverhead police officer Patrick Lennon, Tom Morris of Wading River, and Mike Rabino of Queens, who helped rescue the victims.
Sgt. Frost said two victims were found floating more than 300 yards offshore, while the other people were discovered farther east. The five victims were members of the same extended family, police said.
No one was injured and the victims refused medical care. The Wading River and Rocky Point Fire Departments were called to the scene, but were not used in the rescue. Suffolk County helicopters were also nearing the scene when they were called off after the five people were rescued.
Sgt. Frost said the situation could have been much worse had the residents not been there to help.
“We had the helicopters coming in … but you can’t beat having that boat there,” he said.
Mr. Morris, who helped pull the victims from the water, said he began calling 911 after he heard the cries for help echoing up the bluff near the seashore.
“We actually heard the distress call up on the hill,” he said. Mr. Morris rushed down to the shore to help and climbed into Mr. Sackowitz’s boat.
He said the victims without life jackets were clinging to the side of the small paddleboat when the rescuers spotted them. Before going back to his home to drink a beer, Mr. Morris said the victims were lucky the night didn’t end tragically.
“It could’ve turned out a lot worse,” he said. “We’ve had drownings around here before.”