Man, 85, dead after fishing vessel capsizes near Shinnecock Inlet
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An 85-year-old veteran boat captain died and another fisherman clung to a flotation device until he was rescued, after the commercial fishing vessel they were aboard capsized Sunday near Shinnecock Inlet.
The body of Stian Stiansen of East Quogue was recovered along a beach near the inlet some 45 minutes after his 45-foot stern trawler capsized in 8-foot waves and high winds about 2 p.m., authorities said.
It is not known if the weather played a role in the accident.
Scott Finne of Eastport, who also was aboard the Pauline IV -- named after Stiansen's late wife, according to friends -- survived after rescuers pulled him from rough waters off the inlet 15 minutes after the boat capsized, said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Anthony Kozak.
Kozak said that while water conditions were choppy and there was a small-craft advisory in effect, there was nothing that would have prohibited a vessel of that size from going out safely.
"Those guys are professionals, they do that for a living," Kozak said. "It's hard to say what could have gone wrong for that to happen."
The vessel washed ashore along with debris, and Stiansen's body was found nearby, according to Southampton police officials. They responded to the scene along with the Coast Guard, the Southold police marine unit, a Suffolk police helicopter surveying the area and a private Sea Tow boat whose operators pulled Finne from the water.
At the Shinnecock commercial dock at Hampton Bays, fisherman Matt McClain said Stiansen was well-known in local fishing circles.
McClain said one witness told him that she saw the boat struggling as it tried to re-enter the inlet after fishing out east.
"It's the way he probably would have wanted to go," said McClain. "His whole life was fishing."
Emerson Hasbrouck, senior natural resources specialist for the Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program in Riverhead, said he had known Stiansen for 38 years, and many regarded Stiansen "as a pioneer in the Hampton Bays."
"I have a master's degree in fisheries, but over the years Stian taught me many things about fisheries that one will never learn in a college course or textbook," Hasbrouck said.
Stiansen, the son of Norwegian immigrants, mentored novice fishermen, Hampton Bays fisherman Bill Reed said.
"Stian had the big-picture mentality that he wanted to see younger fishermen succeed," Reed said. "He took on a fatherly role. We called him 'Doctor Stian' because he was so smart."
Reed said that although Stiansen owned his home and no longer needed to work, he still ventured out to fish because of an ingrained work ethic.
"He grew up in the Depression, and I think those lessons stuck with him," Reed said.
Dave Lofstad, a Hampton Bays commercial fisherman, said it was Stiansen who got his family involved in commercial fishing by hiring and training Lofstad's family to work a series of other boats he owned.
"He was a very quiet individual, but he was very well known and respected," Lofstad said.
Lofstad said he spoke with Finne after the accident and that Finne asked him to find the orange poly ball he used as a float that had been recovered.
Poly balls are used in fishing to keep lines afloat and easily retrievable.
"He said he grabbed a hold of a poly ball, and it's what helped keep him alive," Lofstad said.
A relative who answered Finne's home phone number Sunday night said he was unavailable.
Coast Guard officials said they will investigate why the fishing boat capsized.
With Jennifer Barrios
Watch a YouTube video of Stiansen talking about his life.