Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau officers rescued an 11-year-old Ronkonkoma boy and his father Sunday evening, after both were dragged out by a riptide off Cupsogue Beach in Westhampton Beach.
Police said the boy, Justyn Espineira, was swimming at Cupsogue Beach at about 6 p.m., but was unable to swim back to shore because of a strong riptide.
The boy’s father, Rick Espineira, 52, paddled out to his son on a body board, and grabbed onto the boy before the rip tide continued to pull them out farther toward Moriches Inlet. The two were about a quarter- to a half-mile away from shore and drifting to the southwest, police said.
In a phone interview, Wendy Espineira, Justyn’s mom, said she watched frantically from the shore as her husband and son drifted farther away.
The boy is autistic, she said, but generally is a “strong swimmer” with a love for the water.
“Thank God there were still people left on the beach, and they called the police for help,” Wendy Espineira said. “They were out there for about a half-hour, but it felt much longer.”
Rick Espineira said his first instinct was to use the body board to get to his son.
“The board saved both of us,” the elder Espineira said. “I didn’t panic. . . . As soon as I caught him, I realized he would be safe with me, but I also realized I couldn’t get back. I just kept thinking, ‘I hope they’re calling 911.’ ”
Helicopters from the Suffolk County Police Aviation Section located the Espineiras and kept them in sight before Marine Bureau Officers Robert Femia and Neil Stringer arrived in a rescue boat and pulled them out of the water at 6:17 p.m., police said
“I was so relieved, to me it felt like I had been out there forever,” Rick Espineira said.
Both were transported to the East Moriches Coast Guard Station, where they were examined, and found to have no injuries.