Samuel Gutierrez, an entrepreneur and prominent member of Long Island's Salvadoran community, was found dead in the Great South Bay on Wednesday afternoon, Suffolk police said.
Gutierrez, 47, of East Islip, also appears as Samael in police and other official records. He was the subject of a two-day search by police and the Coast Guard after falling from a vessel around 11 p.m. Monday.
A friend, the Rev. Mártir Benavides, said Wednesday that Gutierrez had owned KBG Logistics, a large trucking company whose success made him a role model for many of the Island's Salvadorans.
In a release, police said they found Gutierrez south of Timber Point, near Great River, after a 911 caller reported seeing a body in the water at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Gutierrez's body was being taken to the Suffolk County Medical Examiner to determine the cause of death, police said.
Authorities earlier this week said Gutierrez fell from a 34-foot Fountain powerboat off Heckscher State Park without a life jacket, leaving two women aboard. The vessel came ashore at the state park later that night, a Sea Tow captain told Newsday, adding that the women appeared "scared, worried and in shock."
His death was “very shocking and difficult to process” for many in the Salvadoran community, said Benavides, pastor of Tabernáculo de Restauración church in Islip.
Benavides said Samuel Gutierrez, known as Sam, was jolly and quick to help others, loaning trucks to transport donated goods to victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and for the relief effort after Hurricane María hit Puerto Rico. Gutierrez showed up to help load the trailers and deliver the goods, Benavides said.
Gutierrez also supported a home for orphans in his native El Salvador and pursued other charitable projects in his hometown of San Miguel, Benavides said.
“He was a generous man,” Benavides said. “He did not hesitate in lending someone a hand. ... He too had suffered need when he was a recently arrived immigrant and he helped others because he was thankful for what he had accomplished.”
Suffolk County Legis. Sam Gonzalez (D-Brentwood), another friend, said he and Gutierrez met in 2013 when Gonzalez, a union official, tried to organize Gutierrez's business. "I take care of my guys," Gutierrez told him. The unionization effort fizzled but the two stayed in touch, later teaming up on Hurricane Maria relief work. "He said, 'Sam, how many trucks do you need?' He had truck after truck after truck," Gonzalez said.
"This is someone who I am going to miss because of everything that he meant to everyone, and especially the Latino community," Gonzalez said. "They saw if he made it, so can we."
In a profile in an industry publication, Transportation & Logistics International, Gutierrez was quoted saying he came to the United States in 1992 with nothing but "a dream and $200 that my father gave me."
After jobs washing dishes and driving a cab, he started KBG in 2004, taking the company name from the initials of his sons, Kevin and Brian. After winning a contract for parks and recreation maintenance in Brookhaven, he bought several box trucks; the company grew to 200 trailers and more than 80 trucks, with clients including UPS, FedEx and Amazon, according to the profile.
Gonzalez said Gutierrez left two sons, a teenage daughter and a fiancee whom he said was aboard the boat when Gutierrez went overboard. He declined to name the woman out of respect for her privacy. On Thursday, family members said Gutierrez left two additional children. The family said he also was known by his full name — Samael Gutierrez Cruz.
With Víctor Manuel Ramos