Firefighters rescue men before boat sinks

Two men on a fishing trip were rescued Tuesday 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.

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

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

The 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.

Wading 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.

Usually, 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.

The 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.

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