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Father and son to be honored for 'nice save' of unresponsive man in water after boat crash

The Firemen's Association of the State of New

The Firemen's Association of the State of New York announced Friday, Aug. 21, 2015, that Andrew and Joel Melamed have been named EMS Providers of the Year for their rescue of an unconscious jet-skier in the Lindenhurst Channel in July 2014. The Melameds are members of the Albertson Fire Department. Photo Credit: The Firemen's Association of the State of New York

Joel Melamed describes it simply as "a nice save."

Melamed and his son helped save the life of a Huntington Station man who was critically injured last July when his personal watercraft collided with a boat in the Great South Bay.

"It's not often you get a nice save like that, where the guy makes it," Joel Melamed, 54, who serves as first assistant chief with the Albertson Fire Company, said Friday.

"I'm not religious, but someone was looking out for this guy."

He and his son Andrew, 23, a helicopter instructor who also volunteers at Albertson, will be honored Saturday as EMS Providers of the Year by the Firemen's Association of the State of New York at its convention in upstate Colonie.

The incident in the bay's Lindenhurst Cut began when Roldando Moreno, then 45, crashed his Yamaha WaveRunner into a 23-foot Chapparal boat at 5:25 p.m. on July 20, 2014, Suffolk police said.

Aboard his brother-in-law's boat at the time, Melamed said he and family members heard the distress call about an unconscious person in the water -- and realized they were a few hundred yards from the site.

Melamed said he found Moreno facedown in the water. A man on a passing boat was trying to pull him aboard.

Melamed, a lieutenant with the NYPD's Counter-Terrorism Task Force out of Brooklyn-North in Williamsburg, jumped in the water to help.

So did Andrew and his wife, Gail, an emergency room supervising nurse at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola. Gail donned a life jacket to help direct the operation.

The rescuers managed to get the unconscious victim onto a narrow swim platform behind the boat of the Good Samaritan who'd come to help.

As the boat headed for shore, more than a mile away, Melamed and his son performed CPR. Halfway to shore, the craft was met by a U.S. Coast Guard rescue boat. Moreno was transferred to that boat, as the Melameds continued to perform CPR.

Finally, Melamed said, they got a faint pulse.

But even as the victim was transferred to a West Islip Fire Department ambulance bound for Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, Melamed feared the worst.

"I checked that night," he said, "and I was told he probably wasn't going to make it -- that he had too much water in his lungs."

A few days later, Melamed called the hospital and was surprised when he was transferred to Moreno's room.

"He picked up the phone. I was stunned. I thought maybe it was his brother or something. . . . I was like, 'Do you remember me?' He said, 'No. But I heard the story.' I couldn't believe it was him."

Moreno could not be reached for comment Friday.

"It's a pretty amazing story," said Diana Pfersick, chair of the EMS Committee for FASNY, explaining why the organization chose to honor the Melameds.

Pfersick said the pair were nominated by Albertson Chief Jason Lesak.

"Had they not done what they did, this guy would not be walking around today," she said.

For his part, Melamed said he isn't a hero.

"Usually, it doesn't work out like this. . . . This guy's a 1 percenter. He belongs to a very, very exclusive club."

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