Thursday, July 6th, was a typical day in summer in the North Fork of the Long Island Sound. The sky was robin’s egg blue, the water was flat, and the wind was blowing gently from the southwest. You can see the gray coastline of Connecticut for miles.

Around 5.10pm, the calm of a good summer afternoon changes.

Benjamin Grodski, 18, and three 16-year-old friends boarded a 23-foot Grady-White boat two to three miles northwest of Duck Pond Point in Kachig when The propeller of the outboard engine became entangled with the mooring line.

Not long ago, two passengers on the boat — a man and a woman — jumped off the boat to go swimming. Neither was wearing a life jacket. Unaware of the strong current of the ebbing tide, they quickly left the boat. Unable to start the outboard to pick up his friend, Benjamin called 911 to report that his boat was broken and he needed help.

What happened in Long Island Sound over the next 50+ minutes was a testament to the dedication of first responders, their level of training, and their passion to save lives. Only Benjamin Grodsky’s name appears in the police report; the three 16-year-olds are listed as juveniles. Benjamin could not be reached for comment by press time.

As the crisis erupted, Southold Township Police Dispatchers Michael Boken and Donna Lane recorded voices showing how they handled multiple calls, managed radio communications and coordinated various rescue services. Made the event a success that was not possible in real time.

On the day, a devotional master class was held by all involved parties and the crucial importance of training was emphasized. The four people who reached the wrecked vessel and the teenagers in the water were members of the Cutchogue Fire Department and its Water Rescue Team: Capt. Joe Hinton, Lieutenant Christian Figurniak, Lieutenant Ken Pearsall and Lieutenant Bryan Zissel.

They launched a Zodiac from the beach at Duck Pond Point while town officials scanned the bay from various locations looking for the two teens and awaiting the arrival of a Suffolk County police helicopter.

Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley was enjoying an afternoon with his wife on McCabes Beach when his phone rang. “This was our captain, advising what was happening in the water. A boat was paralyzed and two passengers drifted away without lifejackets,” he recalls.

“The problem then is that the dispatchers are doing a fantastic job,” he added. “They were trying to find a good spot for the boat. The boy on the boat knew he had left Kachige. The dispatcher calmed him down and got the boat’s GPS. He gave us this.

“Then it’s about getting everyone involved — the fire department, our Marine Corps, the county aviation department, the Coast Guard,” the chief continued. “This has to happen very quickly if the two people in the water are to be rescued.”

Southold Harbor Master John Kirincic and detectives set off from Mattituck Inlet. Roman Wilinski sailed northeast, into the channel to find the Grady White. Captain Hinton, Lieutenants Figignac, Lieutenants Pearsall, and Lieutenants Zissel were on their respective divisional Zodiacs from the beach at Duck Pond Point within minutes.

It is now approximately 5:30, 20 minutes after the initial 911 call. At about 5:46, the Zodiac reached the Grady White. The two people still on board are safe and sound. When the two teenagers were floating somewhere east of the rapidly ebbing channel, Zodiac set out to find them. Timing is of the essence.

Recorded radio communications from Southold Police Headquarters can be heard showing Mr Borken and Ms Lane going back and forth between the parties, at one point advising Benjamin to fire flares so that responding parties could see them. Listen now, the dispatcher sounds like two men trying to keep a dozen plates in the air without letting any of them hit the ground.

Sitting in the broadcast room of the Kachig Fire Department on Tuesday morning, Lieutenants Zissel, Lieutenant Figignac, Capt. Hinton and Fire Chief Bill Brewer spoke in calm voices about the rescue. Like someone trained to deal with such crises — though the three who set out on the search aren’t sure they’ll find the teen alive.

“We got to the Grady-White and it was clear that the two men in the water were miles apart,” Lieutenant Zissel said. “The man on the boat said his engine was broken and his friends were in the water – you had to find them. We put two guys on the boat in life jackets, they both had life jackets, and we went out immediately to find them. “

That’s where the water rescue training for the foursome – Lieutenant Pearsall is also a first responder – begins.

“We need to know the direction and speed of the water flow,” Lieutenant Zissel said. “We passed some lobster buoys and we could see the current was more northeast than due east. So we continued the pattern. Joe put the boat in neutral to get a better look. to three quarters, so that tells us how fast the two move.”

Zodiac begins to search for expansive sounds guided by the direction and speed of the water. Captain Hinton worked on a lobster boat when he was young. He knew the difference between a buoy marking a trap and a human head. He also knows how to read water, which is crucial for them to find the teens.

“The drift was very noticeable, and it pointed in one direction that we were searching for,” Lt. Pearsall said. “We passed a lot of lobster buoys and the water was washing them away. But it all pointed us in the right direction.”

Captain Hinton and Lieutenant Figignac first saw the boy. To save his life, he clung to the lobster buoy. Tiredness was written all over his face. His leg was cramping. To the seasoned first responder, it was clear he couldn’t last long. In this case, life itself can be calculated in just a few minutes.

Lieutenant Zissel deployed the lifebuoy, jumped from the boat, grabbed the boy and kept his head above the water.

The others continued to search for the girl and found her 200 yards to the east. She floats on the water with her head bobbing above the waterline. “Her body was not injured,” Lieutenant Pearsall said.

“But she’s exhausted,” Capt. Hinton added. “Her arms were out of the water so we could see her.”

“The four of us couldn’t be happier to have found her,” Lieutenant Zissel added. “Absolute joy.”

Lieutenant Figignac emphasized, “This has been the result of a collective effort, and every part has worked perfectly.”

“It was fantastic to find them both,” Captain Hinton said.

“Most people probably won’t be able to walk in water for more than 20 minutes,” Lt. Pearsall said. “And combine that with the sheer fear of being in the water like this. The water is 73 degrees. A few degrees colder — if they go swimming later and it’s dark when we get there, or if the sea is rough — the conclusion could be will be very different.

“I’m very proud of our department,” he added.

Chief Flatley said Mr. Borken and Ms. Lane would receive the Headquarters Recognition Award for their roles. “The work they do, when something like this happens, training is everything,” he said.

Looking back on the rescue, Chief Brewer, the town’s police officer, emphasized the importance of having well-trained personnel. In his opinion, the two in the water could have easily died, he said.

“They were so tired,” he said. “They’ve got less than 10 minutes of fuel left in the tank. A lot of things have to go right. Everything has to work to make that happen.”

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