Six cold and wet people were saved from a sinking boat after it lost power and was propelled onto the rocks amid rough seas and fierce winds in Smithtown Bay on Tuesday night, officials said.
"The boat was taking on water. They were standing in water when we got to the scene," Smithtown's director of public safety, Thomas Lohmann, said by telephone.
"They would have been in a lot of trouble had they not been picked up," Lohmann said. "They were far enough off shore that they would have had to go into 40-degree water to swim to shore."
The five men and one woman aboard the 18-foot boat had been out fishing when the vessel struck the rocks at Cranes Neck, located at the eastern end of Smithtown Bay — a popular place to fish because the large boulders lining the bottom create places for them to hide and breed. They called 911 for help at about 9:24 p.m., Smithtown officials said in a statement.
Wind gusts were hitting nearly 35 mph, officials said, when the rescue crew managed to get their boat alongside and transfer the passengers.
"This could have been a terrible tragedy," Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim said in a statement.
He added, "The vital caliber of communication, expertise and partnership that goes into a water rescue, under rough weather conditions like last night, is a true testament to the exceptionalism of our first responders, protecting our community every day."
In addition to the town bay constables, who work for the department of public safety, their rescuers included Suffolk police marine and aviation units and the Stony Brook and Setauket fire departments.
The six boaters were wearing their life preservers and all were wet and suffering from exposure to the elements, the officials said. Emergency medical service crews from the Stony Brook and Setauket fire departments evaluated the victims and undertook any care needed.
"Last night's incident once again highlighted the level of professionalism of our bay constables, the Suffolk County police and the volunteer fire departments that responded in difficult and dangerous conditions to effect this rescue," Lohmann said.