Port Jeff Fire Department, Ferry help save stranded kayakers

Port Jeff Fire Department, Ferry help save stranded kayakers

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Photo from PJFD

It takes a team.

On Oct. 28, at approximately 7:05 p.m., Port Jefferson Fire Department rescue personnel joined Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau officers to respond to a report of two kayakers in distress in Port Jefferson Harbor.

According to PJFD, the department was alerted initially by the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound of a possible kayaker in distress. 

With help from the Grand Republic — of the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry — two victims were located on the west side of the inlet at the entrance of the harbor clinging to the jetty. 

Fred Hall, vice president and general manager of the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company, said that when two victims were spotted, the ferry captain moved the boat to where a rescue swimmer from Marine 6 entered the water and made contact with a man and woman on the jetty. 

“We used the searchlights on the boat and were able to spot them,” Hall said. “We were happy to come on the scene and help out at the appropriate time.”

Photo from PJFD

Hall said that the boats captain, Michael Purce, helped keep the boat steady as the roughly 30-minute rescue went on. 

PJFD 1st Assistant Chief Soeren Lygum said that when the Coast Guard put out the alert, all three agencies sprang into action within seconds apart. 

Captain Christian Neubert was one of nearly a dozen first responders who helped rescue the duo in the inlet. 

“It was a dangerous situation out there because of the strong current,” he said, adding that it was also high tide, so visibility was difficult because of rocks below the waterline.

Due to those jetty rocks, PJFD Inflatable 14 was deployed from Anchorage Road and used to transport the victims from the jetty to Marine 6. 

Neubert swam into the cold waters to help pull them into the department’s inflatable rescue boat manned by Ex-Chief Brennan Holmes and firefighter Joe Pisciotta. Ex-Chief Charlie Russo operated Marine 6 alongside Lieutenant Geoffrey Markson.

The victims were brought to the boat ramp by Russo and Markson where they were evaluated by Port Jefferson EMS.

Although exhausted, both individuals refused medical attention and ultimately were uninjured. 

“This is a scenario we practice so our rescue personnel are well trained for it,” Lygum said. “Everyone involved did a great job and it’s always a good day when everyone goes home safe.”