An alert bird-watcher and a pair of rescue boats saved two men whose canoe overturned on the chilly Nissequogue River Sunday afternoon, authorities said.
It was the second rescue on the river in less than a day -- Kings Park firefighters rescued two other men on a fishing trip who became stuck in mud and neck-deep water Saturday night.
In Sunday's incident, authorities received a 911 call about 3:37 p.m. reporting an overturned canoe about a mile off the Old Dock Road boat ramp in Kings Park. By the time rescuers arrived, one man had been in the water 20 minutes, the other 45 minutes, Suffolk police said.
Smithtown Bay Constables Sgt. Nick Balducci and David Rosenberg found a Nesconset man, 22, treading water, but in "distress," Rosenberg said. "He was flapping his arms, trying to get our attention."
Balducci grabbed his legs and Rosenberg grabbed his arms and they hoisted the man into their boat. "All he was worried about was his cousin," said Balducci, referring to the other boater, a Hauppauge man, 25, who was rescued by the Suffolk police Marine Unit.
Both boaters, whose names were not released, had hypothermia, cuts and scrapes, said Kings Park Fire Chief Dan Guilfoil. They were transported to St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown.
Linda Ringen, 71, a frequent birdwatcher from Northport, was parked in her truck on the bluff overlooking the river when she spotted the men paddling out. Through her binoculars, she noticed the heavy current was drifting the canoe far out. Then, it overturned.
Ringen, who doesn't have a cellphone, alerted nearby bicyclists to call 911.
"I wanted to have a heart attack," Ringen said. "I didn't want to see them die."
In Saturday's incident, a 911 caller reported a boater in the river screaming for help.
John Gallo, first assistant chief of the Kings Park Fire Department, said he and his colleagues found a man in a 10-foot fishing boat, which had become stuck in mud about 50 feet offshore. But another man was in the water, stuck in mud that was up to his shins. "He was up to his neck in water," Gallo said.
The men's boat got stuck in the mud, which Gallo described as "like quicksand," during low tide. They tried to free it, but also became stuck.
The first man was able to free himself by the time rescuers arrived, suffering cuts on his legs and ankles in the process. The second man had been in the 44-degree water for three hours, Gallo said.
A member of the department swam to the men, using his own legs to push away the mud that was trapping the victim, Gallo said -- an effort that took about 20 minutes.
Both men, who were not named, were taken to St. Catherine's with hypothermia, Gallo said. "They were very lucky someone heard them calling for help," Gallo said.