Mike Busch with his drone at Bellport Marina on March 8,...

Mike Busch with his drone at Bellport Marina on March 8, 2024. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Mike Busch was at the right place at the right time.

The Brookhaven resident, a nature photographer, was taking pictures of sunbathing seals on Fire Island near Moriches Inlet on Feb. 25, when he said a kayaker approached him from the water.

“One of the kayakers started paddling up close to me and he said, ‘Hey, did you see my friend?’ ” Busch, 57, recalled. “So I put up my camera, zoomed in and I saw him capsized in the middle of the inlet being swept out to sea.”

Busch knew right away that the kayaker was in danger: “I know that inlet very well, and it’s like a raging river when the tide is going out,” he said.

Busch said he quickly called the police and then deployed his camera-equipped drone to help track the man’s whereabouts as authorities responded to the scene.

By the time Busch started tracking the kayaker around noon with his DJI Mavic 3 drone, the man had become separated from his craft by about 50 yards in the roughly 40-degree water, he said. The kayaker, who was not identified, was suffering from hypothermia and was subsequently rescued by a vessel manned by the Eastport Fire Department and then airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital.

Photo taken by Mike Busch of the capsized kayaker.

Photo taken by Mike Busch of the capsized kayaker. Credit: Mike Busch

Anyone in the water without the proper cold-water equipment faces “significant risk and potential death” within 30 to 90 minutes of exposure, said Bill Renzetti, coordinator of the Marine Incident Response Team, a local rapid response water rescue team consisting of six fire departments that covers the Moriches Bay area.

“Mr. Busch’s quick thinking in calling 911 and utilization of his drone to provide precise coordinates to our first responders and rescue boats greatly expedited our response and ultimately led to the successful rescue of the subject in the water and saving a man’s life,” Renzetti said. “His actions exemplify the spirit of compassion, and we are truly grateful for his contribution to the safety and well-being of others.”

Rescuers were able to use Busch's coordinates to locate the...

Rescuers were able to use Busch's coordinates to locate the kayaker. Credit: Mike Busch

Busch, a financial adviser with LPL Financial in Nesconset, is also the creator of the Instagram page @greatsouthbayimages.

Busch said that in the past he has visited the inlet several times a week, but this was his first time there this year because his vehicle beach permit for Smith Point County Park in Shirley had expired. He had just renewed it the morning of the rescue, he said.

“It makes you think about a higher power,” Busch said. “If I was there five minutes later or five minutes before, the other kayaker wouldn’t have been able to get my attention.”

Nominate a Long Islander who goes above and beyond or serves as an inspiration to their community. Send details and photograph to Michael Ebert, michael.ebert@newsday.com (photos should be high-resolution). Photos may be used in other publications affiliated with Newsday.

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