Five swimmers rescued from rough seas off Robins Island

07/20/2015 2:45 PM |

New Suffolk Robins Island map

What started out as a nice day for a dive in the Peconic Bay quickly turned into a multi-agency rescue of a group of people on Saturday morning.

Bay Constables from Southold and Southampton Towns, a Sea Town captain, and nearby boaters rescued a group of divers near Robins Island Saturday morning after rough seas pulled them deeper into Peconic Bay, authorities said.

About 10:10 a.m., Southampton Bay Constable Mark Ruocco was called to buoy 22 just south of the island for a report of “swimmers in distress,” according to a Southampton Town police news release.

Sea Tow captain Garrett Moore was near Mattituck at the time and he and a Southold Bay Constable also responded to the scene. There, they found two 22-year-old men hanging onto the buoy in the rough seas. The men had been part of a larger freediving group that kayaked out to the island and went swimming in the bay before the weather shifted.

“It was wind against tide,” he said. “It was stacked up three to four foot [waves] … it went ‘okay’ to ‘bad’ to ‘worse’ very quickly.”

One of the two was wearing a life jacket, Mr. Moore said. The captain used a tow line to pull one of the young men to safety and the other was soon plucked from the water, he said.

Yet three swimmers — who were last seen wearing black wetsuits — were still missing, Mr. Moore said. Southampton and Southold Bay Constables, the U.S. Coast Guard and a Suffolk County police helicopter all searched the bay for the missing swimmers, according to Southampton Police.

But since the swimmers had been missing for at least 30 minutes, Mr. Moore said, the search area could have stretched to Shinnecock Canal.

“Things were not looking good,” he said. “Trying to do any kind of search and rescue in three to four foot waves [is difficult].”

Fortunately, Mark and Lisa Bischoff of Smithtown were sailing to Shelter Island in their pleasure boat “Lisa Ann” when they spotted the three swimmers — age 22, 21, and 19 — in the bay and rescued them.

“They were in the right place at the right time,” Mr. Moore said.

The five swimmers were brought back to land, police said. The only injuries reported were cuts to one of the swimmer’s legs.

Mr. Moore — who had jumped on an out-of-control boat during a rescue near Greenport last year — said the young mens’ fitness likely saved their lives.

“If these guys weren’t in the peak of their lives, we would have been looking for bodies,” he said.

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