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Chief: Officer stayed with victim sinking in mud until help arrived

water rescue

A Southold Town police officer helped pull a barely conscious Greenport man to safety early Friday morning after the man got lost while attempting to walk home through a marshy area near Silver Lake in Greenport.

Police Chief Martin Flatley said the victim, 22-year-old Rony Perez, first called his friend and said he was stuck in the mud up to his waist and needed help.

The friend then called 911 at around 3:10 a.m., the chief said.

“The only information we had to go on was his friend telling us was that he was stuck in the water somewhere in Greenport — it was very vague,” Chief Flatley said.

The dispatchers then told Mr. Perez’s friend to have him call 911 directly so they could ping his phone for a better location. Mr. Perez then called 911 shortly before 3:15 a.m.

“He said he was in the mud and sinking in the middle of the woods,” Chief Flatley said. “He said he couldn’t feel his legs and hands. He had no idea how he got there.”

Mr. Perez couldn’t tell police where he was before getting trapped in the mud, but was able to say he could see the red flashing light of the water tower and dispatchers were soon able to ping his location from his cell phone’s signal.

“It’s probably one of the most remote areas on the North Fork — it’s an inaccessible lake just to the west of Third Street,” Chief Flatley said. “It’s surrounded by marsh, mud and woods and really heavy reeds. There’s no public access to it anywhere. Whether he was disoriented or whatever, he walked trying to look for his house, but he ended up walking into the woods and got stuck in the marsh and muck.”

A group of officers then started their search and set up staging areas on Webb and North streets.

Officer John Crosser, wearing waders, managed to locate Mr. Perez first shortly before 4 a.m. and waited with him until the East Marion Fire Department reached them by boat.

“[Officer Crosser] held him up until the fire department’s boat got there,” Chief Flatley said, adding Southold and Greenport also responded to the scene. “They really had to bushwhack their way to get through there.”

Mr. Perez reached an ambulance about 20 minutes later and was taken to Eastern Long Island Hospital for treatment of hypothermia. He was listed in good condition as of 11:15 a.m. Friday, hospital officials confirmed.

Chief Flatley said the investigation is ongoing and he believes the victim attempted to walk home from Moore’s Lane through Monsell Trail.

“I think it was poor judgment more than anything else,” he said. “He got into an area he wasn’t familiar with thinking he could just get out of there. I’ve been working here for 36 years and I don’t think we’ve ever been in that area. No one ever goes there because it’s almost impossible to reach.”

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Top photo: Monsell Trail in Greenport. Police say the victim’s only description of his location was a view of the water tower. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)  

The victim tried cutting through a marshy area north of Silver Lake by turning off Webb Street. (Credit: Google maps)
The victim tried cutting through a marshy area north of Silver Lake by turning off Webb Street. (Credit: Google maps)