An East Patchogue man who fell off a friend's boat into the Great South Bay and was left stranded for hours said Thursday he was not angry the friend allegedly didn't summon help or let a passenger call 911.
George Abazis survived the harrowing ordeal by swimming and floating on his back for more than four hours as he waited for help. He was finally rescued by a Suffolk County police boat Wednesday evening.
"He is a good friend. No, I am not upset," Abazis, 57, said of Antonio Toumbas, 50, also of East Patchogue, who is facing charges in the incident.
Suffolk police said Toumbas had been drinking during the outing with Abazis and Abazis' girlfriend, Patricia Nelson, 43, also of East Patchogue, and feared that he'd be arrested if authorities were summoned.
"Don't call the cops, I'll get in trouble," Toumbas told Nelson when she tried to call 911 on a cell phone, according to her four-page statement to police.
Nelson said Toumbas knocked the phone from her hand, according to the statement, and Toumbas and Nelson conducted a search for Abazis on their own.
Toumbas, of 1 Leo St., was arraigned Thursday on first-degree reckless endangerment in First District Court in Central Islip. He was held on a $25,000 cash bail or $100,000 bond. If found guilty, the bar manager faces anywhere from probation up to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison.
Just after 4 p.m. they headed home with Toumbas at the helm and Abazis and Nelson out on the bow.
Abazis got up to use the bathroom when a wave crashed into the boat. His hands, coated with suntan lotion, slipped off the handrail, and he fell backward into the water.
"There were boaters who got to within 20 feet of me, maybe, but they didn't see me," Abazis said. Nelson said she had gone inside the boat's cabin. Neither Nelson nor Toumbas realized that Abazis had fallen overboard until they docked at the South Shore Marina.
Officers Frankie Sierra and Craig Cowell found the exhausted Abazis amid 1-to 2-foot waves at 8:26 p.m. and pulled him from the water.
"It was just luck getting to him," Cowell said. "He was done, finished. All we could see was the top of his skull."