According to Port Washington's fire chief, two teens on a boat came across three men in Manhasset Bay after they capsized. The teens pulled them from the frigid waters to safety. Credit: Newsday

A routine spring boat launching turned into an emergency rescue Sunday when two teenagers saved three men whose boat capsized in frigid conditions.

Nicholas Sarlanis, 17, was launching his family’s 17-foot Boston Whaler Montauk in Manhasset Bay with his friend Nicholas Liolis, 19, around 4 p.m. to dock it for the spring season. Within minutes of the launch, they noticed three men in the water and a capsized aluminum boat.

“They were just clinging onto the boat,” said Liolis, a freshman at St. John’s University.

Strong winds and whitecaps filled the bay that afternoon, and no other boats were on the water, they said.

The young men, along with Sarlanis’ parents, Rosa and Michael, had witnessed the men launch into the bay about 40 minutes earlier and were concerned.

“We saw the boat going and we were saying this is how accidents happen,” said Rosa Sarlanis.

Although the men wore life jackets, Liolis said they appeared to be in shock, as they did not cry out, only waving to the young men for help.

“I guess they were kind of too cold to really move,” said Nicholas Sarlanis, a junior at Manhasset High School. 

The duo’s immediate reaction was to get the men out of the water as fast as possible. The Manhasset residents often go fishing after school and grew up around boats and Long Island's waters. They understood the dangers of being in frigid water.

According to SeaTemperature.Info, the average temperature of the water was 45 degrees — enough for a person to experience hypothermia in a matter of minutes.

They also did not appear to have any cellphones, radios or other ways to communicate.

“They were in a pretty bad situation,” said Liolis. 

Sarlanis looped around to get close enough to the men to pull them onto their boat. The men spoke limited English, they said, but despite a language barrier, they made sure everyone was accounted for.

The duo also managed to tie the capsized boat to their own boat and bring them to the initial destination of the dock.

The Port Washington Fire Department said they received multiple reports of the rescue, and responded to the scene as the men were brought to the dock.

When they arrived, one of the men had left the scene. The remaining two were not hurt or injured, said Chief Matthew Kerin.

Sarlanis and Liolis said the men thanked them for their help, then quickly left. 

The friends stressed they don't think of themselves as heroes, but want to share the importance of boating safety.

Rosa Sarlanis said she and her husband could not see the overboard men in the water, and only called 911 when they witnessed the rescue while standing onshore. If the young men hadn't been there, who knows what would have happened, she said.

“They had no way of reaching out to anybody,” said Nicholas Sarlanis.

The duo also stressed to think twice before going out in dangerous conditions.

“Preparedness is important, and people doing stuff like that is dangerous,” said Liolis. “I just want people to learn from these mistakes and not do the same thing.”

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