‘Five more minutes and they would have been treading water’

Photo Credit: Sea Tow International
Photo Credit: Sea Tow International

Longtime Sea Tow Captain Bill Barker was taking a shower Thursday evening when his wife told him he had just received an emergency phone call from five men who said their boat was taking on water somewhere off the coast of Mattituck Inlet.

“They called me at 7:59 p.m.,” Mr. Barker said in an interview Friday. “I got out and called them back at 8:07.”

Mr. Barker, who joined Sea Tow in 1992, said the boaters told him they believed they were 20 miles away from Mattituck. He instructed them to hang up and call 911 so their exact location could be determined; he also called the U.S. Coast Guard to alert them of the situation.

At 8:12 p.m., Mr. Barker said, he received another phone call from an unidentified good Samaritan who said he was standing on the beach at Duck Pond Point in Cutchogue and could see a boat that looked like it was sinking. The vessel, a 1971 Winnebago Boat, appeared to be one mile northeast of Duck Pond Point, the good Samaritan told Mr. Barker.

Armed with this information, Mr. Barker called his lifelong friend and neighbor, Sea Tow Captain Dick Tandy, for assistance. The men took off on Mr. Barker’s boat in Mattituck Inlet at 8:25 p.m. and located the boaters 20 minutes later, Mr. Barker said.

Captain Bill Barker of Mattituck.

Upon arrival, Mr. Barker and Mr. Tandy saw four of the boaters standing on the vessel’s bow, wearing lifejackets. Another man was “bailing water with a five-gallon bucket,” Mr. Tandy said.

No one was injured in the incident, which is thought to have been caused by a hole in the 44-year-old vessel’s rotting transom, Mr. Barker said.

“If sea conditions had been rougher out, that boat would have gone down in a heartbeat,” Mr. Tandy said. “Another five minutes and they would have been treading water.”

After helping the men board Mr. Barker’s boat, the Southold Town Bay Constable arrived on the scene and transferred them to one of the department’s vessels, Mr. Tandy said. The men — later identified as Erick Hernandez, 21; Rudy Hernandez, 21; Celio Orteg, 35; and Osmond Hernandez, 28, all of Port Jefferson, and Roque Quintanilla, 34, of Centereach — were then taken back to the dock at Mattituck Inlet and their boat was towed away. No charges were filed in the incident.

“They were very appreciative,” said Mr. Tandy, who added that the men appeared to have gone fishing earlier in the day. “They knew they were in trouble and they thanked us profusely.”

“Everything worked out well in the end,” he continued, adding that boaters should always check the condition of their equipment before leaving the port. “Everybody was safe, everybody was happy and we all went home.”

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Caption: Captain Bill Barker of Mattituck.