National Park Service: Avoid Fire Island wilderness breach
The National Park Service is urging swimmers and boaters to stay out of the wilderness breach at Fire Island after a rescue last Sunday involving a capsized boat in the channel.
Supervisory Park Ranger Jon Swindle, who responded to the rescue scene, said the breach is closed to swimming and boating, calling it a dangerous area that is difficult to navigate.
“Since the breach opened in 2012 there have been 17 calls for assistance and two rescues,” Swindle said in a Friday news release.
The breach, a channel connecting ocean to bay, formed in the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness during superstorm Sandy in October 2012, the agency said.
The dynamic features of the breach present a significant safety risk, officials said.
Access to the breach’s eastern shoreline is by foot or with a recreational driving permit from the Wilderness Visitor Center; from the western shoreline it may be reached from Davis Park and points west.
However, wading, swimming, paddling, and boating in the breach have been prohibited since it opened because of safety concerns and to preserve the primitive character of the federally designated wilderness, the agency said.
Also, no signs are in place because of the “dynamic nature of the shoreline,” according to the release.
A parks spokeswoman said Friday the agency is studying how best to manage the breach, including whether to allow natural processes to close access or to proceed to manually close it.
She said the agency will release a draft breach management plan this fall for public review and comment.
In Sunday’s rescue, a boat with three adults and five children capsized after hitting a sandbar about 4 p.m., according to a Bellport Village spokesman.
Isabella Rossellini, the actress and model and also a Bellport resident, noticed the boat while walking with a friend on Ho-Hum Beach and called 911, the spokesman said. Rossellini also is the daughter of Ingrid Bergman, the acclaimed Hollywood actress of the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s.
Three of the children were trapped under the capsized vessel, the spokesman said. They were eventually pulled out by the other passengers as the group “struggled in the inlet’s currents” and ultimately made it to shore at Fire Island’s Otis Pike Wilderness Area, the spokesman told Newsday.
There, Rossellini provided towels to keep them warm.
Bellport lifeguards stationed at Ho-Hum Beach ran a mile and a half to attend to the group, who were “in a state of shock, with lacerations and bruises,” the spokesman said.
They later were taken to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue.