Why didn’t firefighters launch from Wading River Creek during last week’s rescue?

Two men on a fishing trip were rescued last week from a sinking boat that
started drifting toward heavy seas off Wading River Beach. And despite
recent dredging of Wading River Creek dredged to permit quick response
to emergencies, the Wading River Fire Department launched its rescue
boat from the former Shoreham nuclear power plant site, which
firefighters have said takes more time.

Riverhead police said
the 16-foot Sea Ray piloted by Oswaldo Mejia, 39, of Patchogue and
Melvin Portillo, 22, of Medford ran out of gas and began taking on
water about 6:30 p.m. last Tuesday.

The men, both of whom were wearing life preservers, were not injured.

tried to tow the boat, which was about two miles offshore in Long
Island Sound, but were unsuccessful. The boat eventually sank.

men were taken to Iron Pier Beach in Jamesport, where the police
department docks its rescue boat, and then driven to their car, which
was parked near Wading River Creek.

Police said high seas caused the boat to begin sinking.

“It was too small a boat for too big a water,” said Lt. David Lessard.

River Fire Chief Tom Colitti said firefighters launched from the power
plant because they did not have the proper training to launch from the
creek, which was reopened to boaters July 23.

He said the department hosted a training drill in the creek last Thursday, the day after the rescue.

“It’s a lot different maneuvering [the creek],” he said.

because of restrictions related to winter flounder and piping plover
nests, the creek can only be dredged around December, and it usually
fills up with muck by summer.

But this year, in the wake of the March storms, the DEC allowed a rare July dredging, citing potential emergency rescues.

dredging cost $100,000, of which $75,000 was paid by the Federal
Emergency Management Agency. The town and county kicked in $12,500 each.

[email protected]

Looking to comment on this article? Send us a letter to the editor instead.