New York Daily News
NYPD scuba divers and an FDNY rescue swimmer rescued a woman trapped in an air pocket beneath the hull of an overturned boat Sunday on Long Island Sound.
The woman was one of seven people rescued by the NYPD, the FDNY and the Coast Guard after the boat overturned in choppy waters near the Execution Rocks Lighthouse, which is between New Rochelle in Westchester County and Great Neck on Long Island.
Rescuers rushed to the scene at about 5:40 p.m. There they found the overturned boat, and six people in the water.
“A man was screaming that his wife was underwater and never made it out when the other passengers escaped,” said FDNY Lt. Ilya Zerakhto.
Firefighter Lawrence Rooney, clad in cold water gear, swam to the overturned boat while tethered to a FDNY vessel helmed by Firefighter Christopher Warner.
At the same time, two NYPD divers were lowered into the water from a helicopter.
NYPD Det. Brian Mullen said he came across a cluttered scene when he dove under the boat.
“I enter the cabin area. It was hard to get through, there was a lot of debris, cushions, fishing lines, fishing poles, nets,” he said. “I slowly started to make a clearer way through, at which point I see a pair of feet. I grabbed a foot and the foot move. That’s a great sign.”
Mullen put his hand up and the woman, who was remarkably calm, squeezed it with her own.
His next thought was, “How am I going to get her out of this?”
Mullen squeezed into the air pocket with her, and even though she didn’t speak English, he was able to convince her to use a secondary breathing device. She wasn’t able to handle the long swim back through the debris, though, so he had to find another way out.
Luckily, he spotted a hatch on the bottom of the overturned boat.
“I figured the best decision was to put her right through, and I could see ambient light right through that,” he said.
He passed her through the hatch and to his scuba partner, Officer James Roche.
Firefighter Rooney then grabbed her by the shoulder, and helped pull her onto the FDNY boat, Zerakhto said.
The woman’s husband watched the tense scene from a rescue boat about 50 yards away.
“She coughed up some water and she tried to open her eyes,” Zerakhto said.
The woman, who was suffering from hypothermia, repeatedly gasped, “Thank you, thank you,” as her rescuers brought her to a dock in Sands Point on the Long Island side of the sound.
A helicopter rushed her to Long Island Jewish Medical Center, where she was listed in stable condition.
Ambulances took the remaining six boat passengers to Long Island hospitals, officials said.
“I cant’s stress enough the coordination with the NYPD. It was incredible,” said FDNY Lt. Zerakhto.
Police and firefighters set up a base for the rescue on City Island in the Bronx.
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