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Nassau police father and son team cited in dramatic water rescue

Officer James Sarnataro Jr. stands with his father,

Officer James Sarnataro Jr. stands with his father, Officer James Sarnataro Sr., as both are honored for saving the life of a man who slipped off the dock in Bay Park. They were recognized by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016 in Mineola. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

As Officer James Ryan Sarnataro pulled a duck hunter from the icy waters off Oceanside, his proud father watched the rescue from a police helicopter hovering above.

It was the first time the Nassau cops had worked together — and likely the last.

Officer James Vincent Sarnataro, 57, is less than two months from retirement after more than 30 years on the force.

“I couldn’t write a better ending,” he said Tuesday, shortly after he and his son were honored for their police work in the Monday afternoon rescue.

Also awarded citations were Officer Justin Wocel, who piloted the copter, and 911 communication supervisor Nancy Stanley, who guided officers to the scene.

“Heroic work,” Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said at the ceremony in Mineola.

The drama began at 4:44 p.m. when the hunter, 50, of Franklin Square, slipped on the ice-slick dock as he attempted to fuel his boat at the Bay Park Fishing Station and fell into the 10-foot-deep water, authorities said.

The man tried to pull himself out but the frigid water had filled his waders, weighing him down.

He managed to get the cellphone out of his pocket and call his son but was unable to clearly report his location as hypothermia began to grip him.

The man’s son called 911, triggering the rescue. At the 911 center, Stanley was able to quickly narrow the location of the distress call using GPS to within a one-mile radius, Mangano said.

As the police copter searched from the air, the younger Sarnataro on the ground found the victim clinging to the boat about 30 minutes after he’d fallen in.

“He was shaking — a pale color that I’ve never seen in a person before,” said Sarnataro, 27, of Lynbrook.

Sarnataro, assigned to the Fourth Precinct, pulled the man out of the water. In the copter, the elder Sarnataro heard his son’s voice on the radio announcing that he’d rescued the man.

The unidentified victim was treated at a hospital for hypothermia and was resting comfortably at home on Tuesday, police said.

“Doesn’t get better than that,” the father recalled Tuesday.

“This is something any officer in this county would’ve done in a moment’s notice,” said the younger Sarnataro, who started working as a Nassau officer in November after two years with the NYPD.

The elder Sarnataro, also of Lynbrook, plans to retire on March 17. His son will get his shield: No. 1754.

“You couldn’t be more proud of somebody following in your footsteps,” the father said.

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