Town of Southold Police Department in Peconic on April 23.

Town of Southold Police Department in Peconic on April 23. Credit: Randee Daddona

A boat operator jumped into Great Peconic Bay on Tuesday without realizing the boat was in forward gear, getting his legs caught in the propellers, Southold Town police said.

The operator was identified by police as Stefan Palm, 57, a visitor from Germany. A passenger on the boat was a doctor who stemmed the bleeding until Palm could be airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital, said Det. John Sinning. 

Palm's injuries were serious but not life-threatening, Sinning said. 

Palm and two other men had rented an 18-foot Grady-White vessel with a blue bimini top from Strong's Marine in Mattituck and were tubing in the bay just before Palm jumped into the water to take his turn, Sinning said.

The boat kept moving and hit Palm, police said.

The 911 call at 2:40 p.m. was initially directed to Southampton Town police, authorities said, but rescuers had trouble determining the location of the boat.

There was a language barrier, said Albert Tuzzolo, senior bay constable with Southampton Town police, and town rescuers could not understand the location and landmark being described by the caller.

"The way they were describing it, he's in an area that was in Southold," Tuzzolo said. "Not being from Southold, it's not a landmark that we were familiar with."

Southold police received a cellphone ping on the location, which turned out to be about a mile to 1.5 miles off Laurel, Sinning said, and both Southampton and Southold town rescuers initiated a search. There was little boating traffic on the bay, and rescuers were able to spot a boat with a blue top quickly, authorities said.

After reaching the distressed boaters, a Southold bay constable guided the vessel back to shore at Strong's Marine, where Mattituck Fire Department medics waited, police said. Palm was taken to a Suffolk County police helicopter that had landed at Mattituck High School and flown to the hospital, police said.

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