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Long IslandSuffolk

Clammer rescues kayaker in Great South Bay, officials say

A kayaker rescued by a clammer was treated for hypothermia Wednesday morning after his boat capsized and he fell into the choppy waters of the Great South Bay in Copiague, according to authorities.

John Olsen, operations unit controller for the U.S. Coast Guard’s sector office in New Haven, Connecticut, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that the clammer, Jeffrey Muglia of Amityville, spotted the kayaker at about 9:45 a.m. and helped him onto the clam boat.

The identity of the kayaker, who was out boating with a friend in a separate kayak, was not immediately released, nor was the identity of the friend. One of the men was in his 20s and the other was in his 40s, according to an Oyster Bay Town spokeswoman.

Muglia could not immediately be reached for comment.

Olsen, who said the waters were rough and very cold at the time, said the kayaker who had fallen into the water was found between the Fox Creek and Oak Island channels in the Great South Bay, dressed only in a bathing suit and tank top. Olsen said that Muglia “gave him dry clothes and warmed him up.”

“He’s lucky to be alive,” Olsen said. “It’s choppy out there.”

He added, “Although the air might be warm, the water is cold — not debilitating, but cold. It takes a long time for the water to warm up.”

Gary Conte, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service’s Upton office, said that at about 9:45 a.m. Wednesday the air temperature was about 60 degrees and the water in the area was about the same temperature in the deepest parts; in the more shallow waters closer to shore, however, the water temperature was only in the upper 40s.

Olsen said the man whose kayak capsized was found in the colder shallow water “between one and four feet deep” —and that while Muglia was helping him, the kayaker said his friend had been out on the water in his own kayak as well.

Muglia saw the friend about 100 yards away, standing and waving his hands from the shore on Cedar Island — where he had gone in his kayak to try to attract help for his friend.

Olsen said marine units from Oyster Bay and Suffolk County police helped with the rescue. The man whose kayak capsized was taken to Tanner Park in Copiague for evaluation, then to an unknown location for treatment of hypothermia.

“The Bay Constables immediately headed to the location, where they donned survival gear,” the Oyster Bay spokeswoman added.

The rescue took about 40 minutes, Olsen said.

Olsen said boaters should remember to take a life jacket with them at all times and a VHF-FM marine radio.

Olsen said the Coast Guard was not among the responders to Wednesday’s rescue because its rescue boat was out of commission.

With David Olson

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