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Rescue

A Coast Guard Auxiliary boat. Photo Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard

By Herb Herman

On a cold evening in the fall of 2003 a few people got together in Port Jefferson to form a flotilla of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. Fifteen years later, Flotilla 14-22-06, the Port Jefferson Flotilla, is still among the most active auxiliary groups in the country. Thousands of Americans volunteer as U.S. Coast Guard auxiliarists, many of whom are still actively engaged in various professions. Their common motives for joining are love of the water and wanting to participate in an activity that has great regional and national importance.

The Port Jefferson USCG Auxiliary Flotilla, 1st Southern District 14, Division 22, Flotilla 06, was founded in 2003 and now has 33 members. Since its founding, the flotilla has been active in boater education and in patrols within the Long Island Sound and in the Port Jefferson Harbor and Mount Sinai areas. Additionally, in this era of deep concern about terrorism, the flotilla engages in a program to inspect the marine-related facilities and the Port Jefferson Harbor infrastructure in order to discover and to report to the Coast Guard any vulnerability in the marine area. The Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry is of particular interest to the Coast Guard and to the auxiliary.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, created by an act of Congress in 1939, is an all-volunteer civilian branch of the Coast Guard, acting as a “force multiplier,” where auxiliary members, both men and women, frequently aid the Coast Guard in wide-ranging activities. At Coast Guard stations around the country, auxiliary members carry out watch standing, that is, they will engage in communication management for a Coast Guard station. Frequently, they work in the stations’ kitchens, helping in food preparation and service. Many auxiliary members are talented craftspeople and will frequently work to support and improve Coast Guard station facilities.

Some 28,000 auxiliary members contribute over 4.5 million hours of service each year and complete nearly 500,000 boating safety patrol missions to support the Coast Guard. Every year auxiliarists help to save some 500 lives, assist 15,000 distressed boaters, and provide boater safety instruction to over 500,000 students, adults and children alike. In total, the Coast Guard Auxiliary saves taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

Auxiliary members commonly conduct safety patrols on local waterways, assist in search and rescue, teach boating safety classes, conduct free vessel safety checks for the public, as well as many other activities related to recreational boating safety. Appropriate training of our members is key to a dynamic and effective organization. Training enables auxiliary members to become valuable partners with the Coast Guard, helping them meet mission objectives. Also, we meet our commitment to be of service not only to the maritime community but the community as a whole.

In particular, the Vessel Examination Program is a major part of the Port Jefferson Flotilla activity. Nationally, the auxiliary annually performs over 150,000 safety inspections of recreational vessels. This program provides a free vessel safety check (VSC) service to boaters to educate them on boating safety and on the equipment they are required to carry in order to be compliant with federal, state and local regulations.

The auxiliary is prevented by statute from direct participation in the Coast Guard’s military or law enforcement activities. Other than that, the auxiliary has most of the positions of the active duty Coast Guard and trains for them using essentially the same materials and standards. There are some jobs that a new auxiliarist can begin after a few weeks while there are others, such as auxiliary boat crew, that will take a year or so to gather the training and experience to pass a qualification exam. During that time a new member can be out on active auxiliary boat patrols.

The Port Jefferson Flotilla, as well as the other six flotillas in Division 22 on Long Island, is actively recruiting men and women of all ages who want to serve their community and country in this unique way. Interested parties are invited to attend our meetings, which are held on the second Wednesday of each month at the Port Jefferson Yacht Club on Surf Road at Port Jefferson Harbor. Doors open at 7 p.m. and call to order is at 7:30 p.m. For more information on the activities of the Port Jefferson Flotilla visit www.cgapj.org, email info@cgapj.org or call  631-938-1705.

Herb Herman is the flotilla staff officer for public affairs, Port Jefferson Auxiliary Flotilla 14-22-06.

A Port Jefferson firefighter emerges from the drain with Holmes the kitten in tow. Photo from Fred Leute

The idea of firefighters rescuing a kitten in distress is so overdone from movies to fictional novels it’s almost cliché, but in Port Jeff Village, life imitated art Aug. 31.

Strong Island Animal Rescue League Erica Kutzing and Port Jeff Mayor Margot Garant with kitten Holmes. Photo from Strong Island’s Facebook page

Brennan Holmes, chief of Port Jefferson Fire Department, said he was driving near the intersection of Winston Drive and Ronald Court Friday night when a resident walking a dog flagged him down saying a kitten appeared to have fallen down a storm drain. Holmes got out of his car to take a look. The kitten was at the bottom of the drain about 12 feet down. The chief said firefighters were out doing driver training at that time, so he radioed them to come provide assistance. When they arrived, the firefighters lifted the drain’s enclosure and sent a member down a ladder to retrieve the meowing feline.

Fred Leute, acting chief of the village’s Code Enforcement, said he got a call from Mayor Margot Garant as the rescue was unfolding and hustled to the scene to offer his assistance. When he arrived, Holmes said he jokingly told Leute it was his responsibility to find the cat a home. Leute said he already had that taken care of — Garant offered to adopt the kitten. She named her new friend Holmes in honor of the fire chief.

“Not a typical day at all — I’ve been taking some ribbing at the firehouse about it,” the fire chief said. “It’s kind of cool — it shows the village and fire department are close and work together.”

A Port Jefferson firefighter emerges from the drain with Holmes the kitten in tow. Photo from Fred Leute

Holmes, the cat, spent a night at the mayor’s home, where its road to recovery began. Unfortunately, the next day it was determined Holmes required additional medical attention as her fur was riddled with quite a few ticks. These health concerns precipitated a transfer of residence to Strong Island Animal Rescue League for the time being. The organization posted a video on its Facebook page updating the public on Holmes’ recovery a few days later, indicating she was doing much better.

“This was a lot of fun actually,” Leute said.

He said once Holmes was out of the drain he grabbed a box from his patrol car, added some holes and placed her on the floor of the car on the passenger side as the responders wrapped up their job. After a little while, someone alerted the code enforcement officer that Holmes was walking around on the car’s dashboard.

“We got an escape artist,” he said.

Leute said he stopped at the grocery store on his way to Garant’s house to grab some water and food for Holmes — a salmon pate.

Chief Holmes commended the firefighters who responded to his call and came to help out, saying they did a great job.

“That was pretty cool,” he said. “We’re always happy to help out in any way that we can.”

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This skiff belonging to Wen Zhong Wang, 37, of Ronkonkoma, was found empty in the Long Island Sound. Photo from SCPD

A man spent 45 minutes treading water in the Long Island Sound Sept. 4 after being knocked off his small boat by a wake, according to Suffolk County police. The man was rescued from the water after his unoccupied skiff was spotted floating in the Sound.

Marine Bureau officers Cory Kim and Gregory Stroh responded aboard Marine Delta after a fisherman reported finding an unoccupied skiff floating in the Long Island Sound at about 12 p.m. Tuesday, police said. While officers were responding to that call, a 911 caller reported a person yelling for help in the water off Old Field Road in Setauket.

Officers Kim and Stroh located the man, Wen Zhong Wang, 37, of Ronkonkoma, approximately 1/10 of a mile from shore. Wang, who was not wearing a life jacket, had been in the water approximately 45 minutes after he was knocked off his 9-foot skiff when it was hit by wake from a passing boat. Wang was transported to the Port Jefferson boat ramp where he was evaluated by Port Jefferson Ambulance personnel and released.

The fisherman towed the boat to shore where it was secured by the Port Jefferson Harbormaster.

Long Island Sound. File photo

Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau officers rescued three men after their canoe overturned in the Long Island Sound in Northport Friday.

An employee of PSEG’s Northport Power Station observed three males in the Long Island Sound hanging onto their canoe that had overturned approximately 300 yards off shore July 6, according to police. The individual called Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau directly and Officers Paul Carnival, Keith Walters and John Falcone responded at approximately 2:50 p.m.

The officers arrived approximately three minutes later and assisted Javier Villatoro, 27, of Brentwood, his brother Jose Villatoro, 25, of Central Islip and Odir Vilorio, 30, of Huntington Station, onto Marine Bravo. Villatoro was the only person wearing a life jacket.

The men and their canoe were transported to the Soundview boat ramp in Northport. The men refused medical attention.

Mount Sinai Harbor. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau officers rescued a man who became stranded on a sailboat in the Long Island Sound Aug. 5.

Carlo Brita, 33, of Shoreham, launched a 22-foot Catalina sailboat out of Mount Sinai at approximately 4 p.m. Saturday. The craft encountered problems with high seas and winds and became completely disabled.

Suffolk County Police received a 911 call from a friend of Brita’s to report him missing at approximately 10:25 p.m. Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau and Aviation Section responded, and a police helicopter located the sailboat in the Long Island Sound north of Mount Sinai at approximately 11:20 p.m. Marine Bureau Officers George Schmidt and Terrence McGovern in Marine Delta reached the vessel at approximately 11:35 p.m. and pulled Brita aboard. Brita suffered no injuries and was transported safely ashore.

Suffolk County Executive presents Setauket pet with proclamation

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone presents Storm, an English golden retriever, with a proclamation for rescuing a drowning deer from Port Jeff Harbor. Photo by Kevin Redding

A local English golden retriever has earned a lifetime of “Good boy!” declarations and belly rubs, but Suffolk County recently threw him another bone to add to the accolades.

Suffolk County’s newest hero Storm, the brave, 6-year-old dog, who became a national celebrity last week after a video of him pulling a drowning fawn from Port Jefferson Harbor Sunday, July 16, spread like wildfire online, rolled around in the grass outside the Save the Animal Rescue Foundation in Middle Island July 19 as he and local animal rescue members were honored for their efforts to save the baby deer.

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) presented proclamations to East Setauket resident and injury attorney Mark Freeley, Storm’s owner who captured the heroics on his cellphone, Strong Island Animal Rescue League co-founder Frankie Floridia, who aided in the rescue, and Save the Animal Rescue Foundation Director Lori Ketcham, who is rehabilitating the 3-month-old male fawn now referred to as Water. He is currently in stable condition.

Storm, an English golden retriever from East Setauket, became famous for saving a drowning deer from Port Jeff Harbor last week. Photo by Kevin Redding

Despite an attempt to present an official proclamation to the man’s best friend of the hour, Storm seemed much more interested in a large bone provided by the county executive’s staff.

“We’re here to talk about some of the heroes we have here, both canine and human, for what they’ve done to really remind us of the importance of compassion and giving to others and helping others,” Bellone said, acknowledging the selfless initiatives of the animal rescue groups.

Looking down at Storm, he said, “And this dog here is no ordinary golden retriever. He really did something important and special for us. The inspiration that Storm has given to all of us should inspire us to support the work of people like this that is happening each and every day. If that happens, then what Storm did will not only help save one fawn but will help save countless other animals here and others that will be here in the future.”

It was just another normal Sunday morning walk out to Pirate’s Cove for Freeley, 53, and his dogs, Storm and Sarah, a rescued Border collie, when he said the golden retriever suddenly got ahead of him on the empty beach.

The next thing Freeley knew, Storm was paddling out into the water about 100 feet offshore toward “a brown head bobbing” he quickly realized was a drowning fawn. As captured in the video seen around the world, Storm held the deer in his mouth and carried it towards the beach “like a lifeguard would with their arm,” Freeley said.

After the fawn got on the sand, it ran around wildly before collapsing. Storm gently nudged the deer’s face and belly and pawed his leg.

“He won’t even play fetch with a tennis ball,” Freeley said, laughing. “I just feel like he thought he had to do something for this deer. Storm’s a very well-adjusted and socialized dog. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body and he gets along with all animals. People on Facebook were saying he was going to kill the deer, but if you meet this dog, you know that was not going to happen. He’s not prey-driven.”

Freeley quickly posted the video to his Facebook and then called the nonprofit Strong Island Animal Rescue League to inform its members of the fawn.

Floridia, the group’s leader, said when he and his colleague Erica Kutzing tried to approach the deer with leashes and nets, “it totally went AWOL” and ran back into the water and paddled more than 200 feet out. Floridia said it was a do-or-die situation and it didn’t take long before he was swimming out to save the deer.

“He went into the water and followed the example that Storm set earlier and brought that fawn back in and brought it to safety,” Bellone said of Floridia, who he called the animal rescue cowboy.

Storm, an English golden retriever from East Setauket, became famous for saving a drowning deer from Port Jeff Harbor last week. Photo by Kevin Redding

The deer was then transported to the Middle Island animal rescue center.

“The deer was saved and that’s really the best part of the whole thing,” Floridia said. “It’s wonderful that this is bringing awareness to what really happens behind the scenes. Of course I want to thank Storm for helping us ride this wave to get awareness for what we do every day.”

Since the video was posted, the courageous canine’s heroics has accumulated nearly 5.5 million views on Facebook, has been the top story on several talk shows, including ones overseas.

“We’ve been going from one interview to the next and Storm’s been a champ at everything,” Freeley said. “Yesterday, a lady out of the blue called me to tell me just how much of an impact the video had on her, and I could hear her crying a little bit. It’s just amazing and I think people just want to see a simple, basic act of kindness by a dog because news is so hostile today.”

Ketcham said she appreciates the attention her center has been getting from this, which she admitted she isn’t used to.

“It’s been a crazy couple of days since the fawn came here,” Ketcham said. “We have several hundred animals here in our care all being taken care of by a dedicated bunch of volunteers. We hope to get the fawn outside with the rest that are there in a couple days and then back out into the wild in September.”

Freeley, who fosters rescue dogs, provides pro bono legal work for a local animal rescue group, and runs adoption events every Saturday with his daughter, reiterated the biggest takeaway from this.

“It’s really important to support people like Frankie and [these foundations] because they’re the front lines of animal rescue and everybody wants animal rescue, but without your support, there can’t be animal rescue,” he said. “So if Storm has one thing to ask you today it’s to donate to Strong Island and Save the Animal Rescue Foundation to help them continue to save the lives of animals in Suffolk County and on Long Island.”

Neil DeVine and Scott Declue are honored in front of family and attendees of a Port Jeff Village board meeting for saving a motorist who drove into the harbor in April. Photos by Alex Petroski

The decisive actions of four good Samaritans likely saved the life of a motorist who drove his car into Port Jefferson Harbor via the Brookhaven Town boat ramp at the end of Barnum Avenue in Port Jeff Village in April, and for their efforts the heroic men were honored by the board of trustees during a meeting July 17.

Scott Declue was on the phone with his wife Jeyce, with whom he had plans to meet later in the evening April 6. The 40-year-old Mount Sinai resident said in a phone interview he was driving on Route 25A in a severe rainstorm, and was sitting at the light at the intersection of Barnum Avenue and Route 25A, yards south of the boat ramp which leads straight into the harbor. When the light turned green, he said miraculously it stopped raining, and near the edge of the dock he could see a car almost fully submerged in the water. Declue said he told his wife he was going to pull over to take a picture. Soon after stepping out of the car he said he saw a person’s head peeking out of the sunroof of the car.

Good Samaritans and SCPD Marine Bureau divers help a driver submerged in
Port Jefferson Harbor April 6. Photo by Andrew Tetreault/Fully Involved Media Group

“If I don’t do something this guy is going to die in front of me,” Declue said was the thought crossing his mind as he began running to the end of the dock, shedding clothing as he went. Declue dove into the water and swam to the car.

Port Jefferson Village resident Neil DeVine, 38, was also driving when he said he realized something was out of the ordinary. He said he was making a right onto Barnum Avenue from Route 25A when he caught a glimpse of the car, and turned around to enter the marina parking lot. He said he repeatedly tried to call 911 but got a busy signal several times.

“I didn’t expect the water to be as cold as it was,” DeVine said during a phone interview. Village Mayor Margot Garant said during the presentation of a proclamation to honor the heroism of the four men that the water was about 38 degrees at the time of the incident, which occurred around 5:30 p.m. DeVine said he and Declue jumped in the water, but he soon realized his heart rate and breathing were slowing.

Declue reached the car and got on the roof attempting to pull the driver out of the car. DeVine said he went back to the dock and tried to find a way to help pull both men to safety. The two men described DeVine luckily finding a line from a crane on a nearby barge that was tied to a ring, and both line and ring were thrown to Declue and the victim. DeVine, with other-witnesses-turned-heroes Tony Barton and Wayne Rampone Jr., pulled the two men to the dock and lifted them out of the water. Barton and Rampone could not attend the meeting.

Declue, who is an Eagle Scout, said he thought the victim was dead while he tried to get him to safety.

“His eyes were rolled back a little bit and yellowish,” DeVine said of the victim. He added during the rescue he heard the driver say he couldn’t swim.

“If I don’t do something this guy is going to die in front of me.”

— Scott Declue

Since the incident Declue said he spoke briefly with the victim and family members, but no in-person meeting has taken place. DeVine said the victim’s mother wrote a letter to DeVine’s children, thanking him for his bravery and explaining the actions the men took on the night of the incident.

Declue said he had a hard time articulating to his wife what exactly happened after he tossed his phone and sprinted to the end of the dock.

“I think I saved someone’s life,” he said he told her. “She asked, ‘How big was this puddle?’”

Declue called it divine intervention that his plans changed.

“I wasn’t even supposed to be there,” he said, adding that the incident kept him up at night for weeks.

DeVine said he was appreciative of the village recognizing their actions.

“We want to thank you for, really, saving a life in the Village of Port Jefferson,” Garant said. “That’s what this community stands for — citizens like yourselves seeing a person in harm’s way or an accident situation — so I really want to commend you on behalf of the board of trustees.”

The victim was treated for severe injuries in the aftermath of the incident according to the Suffolk County Police Department, and his current condition is not known.

File photo.

Suffolk County Police arrested a man for driving while ability impaired by alcohol and drugs after he was rescued from his burning vehicle in Rocky Point April 12.

Corey Tierney was driving a 2003 Hyundai Sonata northbound on County Road 21, about one mile south of Route 25A, when he lost control of his vehicle, which crashed into a wooded area and caught fire. Passing motorists, Claudio Gil and Margaret Ward, pulled an unconscious Tierney from the vehicle.

Rocky Point Fire Department Rescue responded and administered Narcan to Tierney, 21, of Mount Sinai, who regained consciousness and was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries and charged with driving while ability impaired by alcohol and drugs.

Gil, 30, of Mount Sinai, and Ward, 51, of Rocky Point, were not injured.

Tito was sick and in pain when the group rescued him in New Jersey. Photos from Guardians of Rescue Facebook

A Smithtown-based animal rescue group is continuing to guard the community’s most vulnerable.

Guardians of Rescue, a nonprofit organization, rescued Tito, a seven-year-old Argentine Mastiff who was found in a junkyard in New Jersey Feb. 2. The group works to provide aid to animals in distress, including facilitating foster programs, rehabilitation and assisting other rescue groups. The Guardians said Tito was mistreated, neglected and was near death when they rescued him.

“This dog was in such horrible condition that he could barely walk,” Robert Misseri, founder and president of the nonprofit, said in a statement. “He has been severely neglected and it’s so sad to see. We had to act and do what we can to change things for him.”

Tito is now a healthy and happy dog. Photos from Guardians of Rescue Facebook

According to the group, a good Samaritan in the New Jersey community originally found Tito and told the Guardians about the condition he was living in. The community member said they attempted many times to get Tito’s owner to surrender the dog to no avail, and eventually the Guardians were called in to help. Tito had been living in a mechanic’s shop his whole life and may have been being used for breeding purposes. When rescued he had severe ear infections in both ears, which has lead to hearing loss, was 35 pounds underweight, was living in constant pain and could barely walk. He was also filthy and had teeth that were decaying.

The owner wanted to continue breeding Tito, despite the fact he was emaciated and could barely walk, the group said. After being evaluated by the resident veterinarian, he and members of the Guardians convinced the pet owner to surrender Tito.

“No one knows how much longer he would have survived, but for however long it was painful each day just for him to live,” Dr. Marvin “Moose” Baynes, the Guardians’ resident veterinarian, said in a statement. “Tito is recovering and doing well. He’s lucky to have been rescued and we will do all we can to help him make a recovery.”

The group is ensuring he gets the proper medical care he needs, and will work to find him a proper and loving home where he can live out the rest of his life.

Tito is currently living with Baynes as he continues to have his health evaluated and receive treatment.

Last month, the Guardians rescued a dog named Bear who had been living chained to a doghouse for 15 years. He was adopted in January and now is in a safe and happy home.

Guardians of Rescue has a new show called “The Guardians,” which airs on Animal Planet on Saturdays at 10 p.m. To learn more about the nonprofit or to donate, visit www.guardiansofrescue.org.

Guardians of Rescue members cut the chain holding Bear. Photo from Guardians of Rescue.

One dog in Smithtown has more than a few guardian angels watching over him.

Bear has spent 15 years chained to a doghouse in the backyard of a Smithtown home, but as of Jan. 23, he’s officially off the leash. The black lab has Guardians of Rescue, a Smithtown-based organization that works to provide aid to animals in distress, including facilitating foster programs, rehabilitation and assisting other rescue groups, to thank for his new-found freedom.

“We received a call about a dog in need of a doghouse,” Robert Misseri, founder and president of the group, said. “But when we got there, it was even worse than that. That’s when we discovered the poor dog had spent his whole life attached to a heavy chain. We knew then and there that we had to do something to make a difference in that dog’s life, and so we did.” The group said Bear had endured harsh winters with little attention.

The guardians said they spoke with the dog owner, who agreed to surrender the animal to the rescue group.

“It’s excellent,” Misseri said as Bear was cut free from the chains. “It’s nice to see the dog get off the chain after 15 years and live out the rest of its life with a nice older family, perhaps who will treat him right. He’ll lay around inside and have a good rest of his life.”

Bear was cut free, loaded into the front seat of a pickup and sent to the groomer. The group is currently searching for a permanent home for Bear.

The rescue group said its plan is to make Bear veggie burgers, take him to dog parks, on car rides and even get him into an indoor pool. The helpers also want to make sure he’s able to spend some time lying in front of a warm fireplace.

“Our mission is to help rescue as many animals as we can, but we can’t do it without the help of the community,” Misseri said. “One phone call from someone in the community set the wheels in motion that have changed Bear’s life. That’s a true success story and why we exist.”

Guardians of Rescue has a new show “The Guardians,” which airs on Animal Planet Saturdays at 10 p.m. The show depicts the work of the group as they travel Long Island rescuing animals and providing them with a better life.

The community can assist the group by watching out for animals in need and contacting the organization when they see one in distress. To learn more or get involved, visit www.guardiansofrescue.org.

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