Heroics in Long Island Sound — good Samaritans aid in two water rescues

08/31/2017 6:00 AM |

Standing on the rocks at Orient Point Friday, Hassan Hamza spotted a young boy in distress.

Mr. Hamza, a volunteer firefighter in West Babylon, has nearly 30 years’ experience diving around Orient Point and understood the challenge he faced when he began swimming toward the boy, who had been caught in a current and was being pulled out into the sea.

“When it’s incoming tide, and you’re out there, you’re going to Connecticut,” said Mr. Hamza, 65. “If it’s outgoing tide, you’re heading out to Montauk Point. There’s no way you’re going to swim against the current that’s going six feet per second. I don’t care if you’re Mark Spitz.”

It was a little after 3 p.m. when Mr. Hamza, swimming with the tide, reached the 10-year-old. He knew he wouldn’t be able to swim back to shore, so his goal at that point was simple: Keep the boy afloat until rescue boats arrived.

“Luckily, the kid was a good swimmer,” he said. “He was frightened, though. He was asking, ‘Are we going to die? Are they going to send a boat?’”

The rescue effort that started with Mr. Hamza was the second in a span of about four hours Friday that resulted in two lives being saved in Long Island Sound.

Shortly before 11 a.m., in East Marion, a 72-year-old man had fallen into the water when his aluminum capsized in the rough conditions.

Southold Town police received a 911 call about a person hanging onto the side of an overturned boat about 500 yards off Pebble Beach. At the same time, Eric and MJ Bulis were fishing off Rocky Point Road in a boat with Robert and Mimi Crawford. They heard the call from Southold Town police on marine radio asking for help.

“They said a man was in the water trying to swim to shore about 200 yards to the west of us,” Ms. Bulis said. “He was struggling and they said they were sending the bay constable from Mattituck, but that it might take too long, and they asked us to assist.”

They first saw the overturned boat and then saw Emmanuel Leodis of East Marion in the water, who at that point had drifted away from the boat.

The Crawfords, who own the boat, helped assist Mr. Leodis into the boat, Ms. Bulis said.

“He was so tired, he couldn’t pull himself on the boat at all,” she said.

Mr. Leodis rested on board and asked Ms. Bulis to call his family, so they could meet him on the shore.

They were met by the Southold bay constable, who took Mr. Leodis to shore.

Police said Mr. Leodis refused medical attention but was checked by East Marion Fire Department ambulance volunteers at the scene.

Mr. Leodis told police that rough conditions in the Sound caused his boat to be swamped.

Mr. Leodis could not be reached for comment.

“We just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Ms. Bulis said. “In no way are we heroes; we were just the closest boat. If a boater is in trouble in the water, you just call.”

Bill Stanley of New London, Conn., a Cross Sound Ferry mate aboard the Mary Ellen, assisted in the rescue effort when a 10-year-old boy got caught in the current last Friday. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

Back in Orient a few hours later, Bill Stanley of New London, Conn., has just pulled the Cross Sound Ferry vessel Mary Ellen into the dock when he heard a Coast Guard call.

He picked up binoculars and could see people in the water. He notified the ship’s captain, Matt Dawley, and then prepared a rescue boat. By then, there were three people in the water: the boy, Mr. Hamza and the boy’s father, 45-year-old Jordan Asher of Brooklyn, who swam in after his son.

“All the deckhands were in the car deck, loading and unloading cars,” Mr. Stanley said, “so I saw the deli clerk, who was 28 years old and able-bodied, so I said, ‘Hey, let’s go for a boat ride.’”

The deli clerk, Karol Wloblawska of Orient, was fully trained in rescue procedures, as are all Cross Sound Ferry personnel, according to company vice president Stan Mickus. They do weekly drills, he said.

“We are extremely proud of Billy and the crew for their quick thinking and actions that ultimately saved three lives last Friday,” Mr. Mickus said.

The aluminum rescue boat, which is stored on the vessel’s sun deck, has a 25-horsepower motor, Mr. Stanley said.

The three people in the water were about a quarter-mile due south of the beach and about three-quarters of a mile from the rescue boat, Mr. Stanley said.

It took less then three minutes to reach them and they were easily pulled on board and taken over to Orient by the Sea Marina, where they were checked out by Orient Fire Department ambulance personnel and released.

Andrew Maugeri of Deer Park, who witnessed the incident, said a woman who was with the boy’s family also went into the water to try and save him, but was able to swim back to shore.

“She was going try and help and they probably told her to get back,” Mr. Maugeri said.

Mr. Hamza said they were in the water for about 30 minutes. He said his girlfriend, Chantal Gutjahr, was on shore and tried to call the ferry but was put on hold and told to call the Coast Guard.

Mr. Hamza said two other rescue boats were close behind them when the ferry boat picked them up.

Ms. Bulis, from the East Marion rescue, said their boat was returning home from a fishing trip and passed through Plum Gut only a short while after they heard the radio calls for help at Orient Point.

“Who knows?” she said. “If it had been a few minutes earlier, we could have rescued three additional people.”

CORRECTION: The call the boaters in East Marion heard was from Southold Town police, not the Coast Guard. And the man in the water was about 200 yards away from the boat, not 100 feet.

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Top photo:  A rescue boat brings in a man whose boat capsized last Friday in Long Island Sound off East Marion. It was the first of two separate rescue efforts that day in the Sound. No injuries were reported in either incident. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

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