Investigators say they may never know how NYPD Officer Patrick Luca died in a kayaking accident Friday, but evidence so far appears to rule out some causes.
The body of Luca, 41, of Smithtown, was pulled from Smithtown Bay on Saturday. His son Caden, 5, and the inflatable kayak they had launched Friday on the Nissequogue River were found that day. The boy, floating in a lifejacket, was rescued by passing boaters.
"There are different theories as to what might have happened," said the Homicide Squad commander, Det. Lt. Gerard Pelkofsky. "We don't really know if we'll ever be able to determine what actually happened to him. We will be re-interviewing the first responders and the people who picked up the child. And we'll await the medical examiner's report."
Although the Coast Guard had said it appeared the boat had rolled over, possibly throwing Luca into the water, Suffolk police and kayak experts discount that theory.
Deputy Insp. Harold Jantzen, commanding officer of the Suffolk Police Marine Bureau, said when a Smithtown bay constable recovered the kayak, a paddle, fishing rod, bag of cheese crackers, a gear bag and personal items had not fallen out and the interior was dry.
The only item found away from the kayak was one of its two inflatable seats, which was recovered by another boater, Jantzen said.
There has been speculation that Luca might have gotten into the water to try to swim the kayak to shore against a strong current coming out of the river. "The boat was fixed to the bottom," with a weight and a rope in about 8 feet of water, Jantzen noted, and because Luca was not wearing a bathing suit, "I would say it's unlikely" he decided to swim.
And since a paddle was found in the boat, that would rule out Luca losing a paddle and trying to swim after it.
One thing is certain: If Luca fell out of or jumped out of the kayak, "it's very difficult to get back in," said Steve Sadowski, assistant manager of the Eastern Mountain Sports outdoor store in Carle Place.
Sal Triolo of Melville, who was fishing, found the body about 10:45 a.m. Saturday and notified the Coast Guard. "I'm glad that he was recovered so his body could be laid to rest properly," Triolo said.
With Patrick Whittle