4 rescued from sinking boat off Fire Island
Four hours after Mike Spagnuolo piloted his charter fishing boat, the Gina Ann, out of a Freeport marina Thursday, he and Mike Larmony had caught a brown shark and bluefish in the Atlantic Ocean.
Little did the off-duty Nassau Marine Bureau police officers and their five-member party know that the catch of the day would be four fishermen - stranded when their boat began sinking in shark-infested waters south of Fire Island.
Racing through rough seas, the Gina Ann rescued the crew of the Anger Management minutes before the 30-foot recreational charter on a shark-fishing trip slipped to the bottom of the sea.
"They came in the nick of time," said the distressed vessel's pilot, Ray Pasieka, 43, of Oceanside. "When we got them in sight, the boat was going down already."
Pasieka said he, a neighbor and two friends caught a mako shark Thursday morning before the ship began taking on water 44 miles south of Jones Beach Inlet. The crew couldn't pump out the water fast enough, then made a failed attempt to flag down a passing trawler.
Pasieka said the cause of the flooding may have been a loose or damaged hose.
Spagnuolo, 33, of Freeport, said he and his crew cut their fishing lines when they heard the Anger Management's distress call.
"We heard the panic in their voice and we knew we had to get there," he said. "We knew there were no other boats out there."
The Gina Ann raced six miles west to where the Anger Management was sinking. After donning life jackets, Pasieka and his crew swam 50 feet through 6-foot to 8-foot swells to safety on the Gina Ann.
"That was the biggest fear, jumping in the water," Pasieka said. "We knew there was a shark in the water in eating distance."
Within minutes, the Anger Management sank. The 5-foot mako the crew had caught went down with the ship.
The crew suffered no injuries, said the Coast Guard, which credited the Gina Ann for its quick response.
"They did an absolutely fantastic job," said Boatswain's Mate Brian Meehan of the Coast Guard's Fire Island station. "We are very, very lucky that the Gina Ann was out there at the time and did what they did."
Spagnuolo credited one of his crew, Robert Mullen, 18, with picking their fishing spot Thursday. Given his druthers, Spagnuolo would have fished in a different spot.
"I would have been 20 miles away, and we would have been too far away" to help the Anger Management crew, he said. "My crew did an outstanding job."