Air-sea rescue inflated: 'Dora' saved

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By boat and helicopter, authorities searched for a parachute that had fallen in the waters off Sag Harbor Tuesday night, but the drama was soon deflated.

"We are busy rescuing 'Dora the Explorer' balloons," a Southampton Town police sergeant said with the seriousness of a real rescue.

The town bay constables fished out Dora, a cartoon character, emblazoned on six mylar balloons, during a 45-minute search after a motorist called 911 about a parachute in the water, police said.

The motorist was eastbound on Noyac Long Beach Road, which runs along the beach, when he saw something float past his car about 8:50 p.m. and drop into the water about 250 feet from the beach, police said. The caller also said someone appeared to be "kicking" in the waves, police said.

The cry of "people in the water" drove emergency responders into the water and beach, police said: Bay constables went out on a boat. Southampton police dispatched officers. Suffolk County police got a helicopter up. The Sag Harbor fire department came out also. The Coast Guard was notified.

A short time later, the bay constables spotted the Dora balloons a quarter-mile from the beach, police said.

They lifted out six saggy balloons, but still, the search went on, police said, because rescuers wanted to be sure there really was no parachutist out there.

After the police helicopter ended a final check of the waters at 9:37 p.m. and declared the local seas devoid of anybody needing a rescue, the search was abandoned, police said.

"It ended up being somebody's party balloon come down," the sergeant said. "A tremendous amount of money for Dora the Explorer."

But the motorist did the right thing by calling, the sergeant said: "I'm glad he didn't blow it off. We were just glad nobody was actually out there in the water."

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