Joanne Crokos can’t get the vision out of her head of a mother and daughter — both barefoot, drenched and shivering — standing outside her home in Orient.
Ms. Crokos, her husband, John, and their son all woke up to the sound of “shrieking” around 3:40 a.m. Monday when they found a woman yelling hysterically at a locked gate separating the private beach along the Long Island Sound and their backyard.
“They kept saying ‘mucho frio’ and ‘cuatro’ ” Ms. Crokos recalled in an interview with The Suffolk Times nearly 12 hours after the incident.
“And ‘por favor,’ ‘por favor,’ ‘por favor,’ ” Mr. Crokos added.
While there was a language barrier, the Crokoses said they understood the mother and daughter — who were later identified as Delfina Reynoso, 26, and Damaris Reynoso, 8, both of Hartford, Conn. — were involved in a water accident since both were wearing life jackets.
Ms. Crokos said their kitchen light is usually turned off before bed, but, for some reason, someone forgot and left it on Sunday night.
While the Reynosos wouldn’t have been able to see the light from the shoreline, perhaps seeing it on after climbing over 30 steps from the beach up toward the house gave them hope of being rescued, Ms. Crokos said when asked why she believed they arrived at her home.
“They may have tried other homes — how we heard their screams is beyond me,” she said as she rubbed goosebumps on her arms. “God put them here. It was God’s way of helping them.”
As they handed them towels to dry off, Ms. Crokos also learned two other people were missing.
Authorities later confirmed the mother and daughter had arrived in Orient after traveling across Long Island Sound from Connecticut in a kayak with 30-year-old Avdias Ventura, also of Hartford, Conn. Wind gusts swept them away from the shoreline by 9 p.m. Sunday, according to Southold Town police.
Mr. Ventura was found dead onshore about a quarter-mile west of where the women were located, police said.
A fourth man, Ferdinand Lagos, 39, of Manchester, Conn., who was on a paddleboard, was reported missing Sunday, prompting a search from the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies Monday morning, police said.
The group had set off from Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Conn.
The Coast Guard received a call at about 4:15 a.m. from Southold police notifying them the woman had lost sight of both men when they entered the water.
A body matching the description of Mr. Lagos was found closer to Connecticut late Monday morning. Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said his department received word from the Coast Guard that a body with the same clothing of the missing man had been discovered. The Coast Guard said the Clinton Fire Department located the body five miles south of the Connecticut River.
The search for Mr. Lagos was called off about noon, police said. At least 10 agencies assisted in the search, including the Coast Guard’s MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter out of Cape Cod.
“Cool water drains body heat up to 25 times faster than cool air, which is why we encourage boaters to always dress for the water temperature and not the air temperature,” said Chief Petty Officer Frank St. Pierre, who was the command duty officer.
When told police had confirmed the women were taken to Eastern Long Island Hospital to be treated for hypothermia and are in stable condition, both Ms. and Mr. Crokos said they felt very fortunate to have been able to help them.
“If you can help people — it’s the best feeling,” he said.
“It’s truly a miracle,” Ms. Crokos added. “My heart went out to the little girl.
“And she didn’t cry — not a whimper.”
Top photo: Two people climbed these stairs and cried for help after traveling across the Long Island Sound in a kayak from Connecticut. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)