A body found off the Fire Island Inlet is that of a West Babylon man missing since Oct. 11 when churning waves capsized his boat during a fishing trip with two friends, police said Wednesday.
Family members of Roberto Vasquez, 49, said police came to their home Monday afternoon with his wallet, cellphone, keys and other belongings retrieved after a passing boat spotted his body in the water off Robert Moses State Park.
“It kind of broke our hope that he was on an island or something trying to get back,” said his son Joshua Taveras, 15.StoryCops: Passing boat finds body off Fire Island
Police on Wednesday said Vasquez has been identified as the man whose body was found, about 1 mile offshore of Fire Island Inlet.
Vasquez’s family has started making funeral arrangements and set up a GoFundMe page with the hope they can raise the $3,000 needed for burial.
“He kept the whole family together and happy,” Vasquez’s widow, Claritza Padilla, said Tuesday.
Vasquez immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic and owned a Wyandanch company that paves driveways, his family said.
Last week, the father of four finished work for the day and set out on his boat for an afternoon fishing trip with two friends, Carlos Hernandez, 36, of Wyandanch, and Erik Flores, 30, of Amityville. A wave slammed into the boat about 200 yards south of Cedar Beach and flung the three men into the water.
Flores said all had seemed calm on the water until one large wave came followed by another.
“When I saw the big wave come, I said ‘Oh my God, we’re done,’ ” Flores said two days after the boat overturned, explaining how he and Hernandez looked for Vasquez but couldn’t see any trace of him. “We were crazy looking around the boat and a lot of waves were coming on top of me and the other guy.”
Within minutes, crew members on a commercial fishing vessel plucked Hernandez from the inlet and a Coast Guard crew rescued Flores, who said he stayed by the capsized boat because he did not want to leave his friend.
An air and water search for Vasquez by the Coast Guard, Suffolk police, NYPD and local fire departments ended after two days and 388 square nautical miles covered.
Vasquez’s family said he started a paving business 15 years ago, naming it “Brother and Sister Blacktop.” He chose the name because at the time he had just a son and daughter and wanted them to some day take over the company, Taveras said.
Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Vasquez loved swimming and fishing, his wife said, and would often cast a line from his boat on the waters off Long Island, despite her fears he’d drown.
“ ‘Don’t go,’ ” Padilla said she’d tell him. “We talked about it all the time, but this was his passion.”
Flores said Vasquez often went fishing after work and last week headed to the inlet, a known spot for striped sea bass.
Taveras said the family will honor his father’s wishes and keep the business going because Vasquez wanted it to pay for his children’s college so they didn’t have to do hard labor as he did.
“He would always say it’s easier to pick up a pencil than a shovel,” Taveras said.
With Gary Dymski