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Stehli Beach near-drowning victim thanks rescuers with homemade lunch

"I am so grateful to these guys," Anna Zapantis of Locust Valley said of the lifeguards who saved her. "I can't thank them enough."

On Wednesday, one week after her dramatic rescue from drowning at Stehli Beach in Bayville on July 4, Anna Zapantis, 69, of Locust Valley thanked the six-man crew who saved her life by serving a homemade lunch of chicken fingers and penne a la vodka at the same beach where she was rescued. (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

Adam Limperis-Kaufman was the first to spot the body floating 20 feet offshore.

“I saw her in the water, she was facedown and wasn’t breathing or anything,” said Limperis-Kaufman, a lifeguard who was working at Stehli Beach in Bayville on July Fourth. “We realized we had to take action.”

The 19-year-old Bayville resident said he and five other lifeguards rushed into the water, bringing the woman to safe ground within minutes. One lifeguard — Charles “Chap” Tomaken, 64, of Lattingtown — administered the life-saving chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

“After several CPR sessions, foam started coming out of her mouth and her eyes began to open —but barely,” Tomaken said.

The woman — Anna Zapantis, 69, of Locust Valley — survived. And on Wednesday, one week after the dramatic rescue, she thanked the six-man crew who saved her, with a homemade lunch of chicken fingers and penne a la vodka at the same beach where she was rescued.

“I am so grateful to these guys,” Zapantis said. “I can’t thank them enough.”

Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino also gave citations Wednesday to the six lifeguards who assisted in the rescue. In addition to Lempiris-Kaufman and Tomaken, Nicholas Melbinger, 20, of Glen Cove, and Eamonn Boyd, 25, Chase Taylor, 19, and Evan Lautato, 19, all of Bayville, also participated in the rescue.

Stehli Beach, which is off Long Island Sound, is open from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. and is staffed with five to six lifeguards throughout the day. This is the first near-death incident of 2018, according to Saladino.

“The heroic lifeguard crew took immediate action and were able to successfully reverse a very scary situation,” he said. “We commend them for their lifesaving efforts.”

Zapantis, who said she has been swimming since she was 2 years old, moved to Locust Valley from Queens six months ago because she loves the water. She said she doesn’t remember much of that day last week, outside of trying to swim to shore and being unable to do so.

But her husband, Dino Zapantis, remembers the day all too well.

As lifeguards ministered to his wife, he knelt at her side stroking her hand and calling her name throughout the ordeal.

“I thought I had lost everything,” he said.

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