Riverhead mom swims into Sound to drag teens back to shore

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A view of Reeves Beach where a Wading River woman dove into the water to pull her daughter and friend back to shore as they drifted into the current.

When Suzanne Norbury stepped out onto Reeves Beach Friday afternoon, she didn’t see her 14-year-old daughter or the girl’s friend anywhere.

She said the two teenagers had run ahead with their inflatable rafts, though she warned them to stay out of the water until she caught up.

Ms. Norbury said she scanned the beach right, then left. Then she spotted the two, pulled hundreds of feet offshore by the current.

“I saw them that far out and thought ‘Holy crap,’” she said.

The Riverhead woman sprang into action, swimming out to the teens and helping them to get back ashore while onlookers called 911.

All three paddled back to safety and were uninjured.

Ms. Norbury said she had called for the kids to paddle their rafts, but the current was too strong and was taking them out to the whitecaps in the Sound.

“I kept yelling ‘Come in!’ but they weren’t moving,” she said, adding that the rafts had been tied together and the knot wouldn’t come apart. “They couldn’t get back in.”

Police, medical and fire officials arrived on the scene, but by then, the group was almost back on land.

Riverhead Fire Department first assistant chief Kevin Brooks said that while no one was hurt in this case, residents should not swim out into open waters after victims who are pulled out by the tides.

“Normally [the victim is] in trouble because of the water condition or the tide,” he said. “Putting a swimmer in there, unless you’re a really good swimmer, jeopardizes their safety and the safety of the person in the water. Swimming out that far is a little bit dangerous.”

Mr. Brooks said onlookers should stay on shore, keep watch on where the victim is going, and alert rescue crews when they arrive.

“That helps the volunteers if you can maintain a visual on that person,” he said.

Ms. Norbury said she was “second-guessing” her decision to swim out, but said it was hard to remain onshore with her child drifting farther out into the Sound.

When the three made it back safely, Ms. Norbury said she made sure the teens got the message not to be careless again.

“I used a bit of pirate language back there,” she said. “Lesson learned.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated Ms. Norbury was a Wading River resident.

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