Very little was known, police said, beyond the fact that fisherman Daniel Arnold, 64, was pronounced dead Monday night at Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center after being airlifted there from Crab Meadow Beach.
Police said Arnold had been fishing at about 6:30 p.m. Monday on a sandbar at low tide in an area where swimming is prohibited, there are no lifeguards and "No Trespassing" signs warn people to keep out.
When the tide came in, police said witnesses told them, Arnold became trapped on the sandbar and sometime later drowned as it was covered with water.
What remained a mystery Tuesday, police said, was how Arnold came to be stranded, how far he was from the beach, the depth of the water where he was fishing, and how quickly his situation turned deadly.
A.J. Carter, a spokesman for the Town of Huntington, said during low tide, beachgoers can walk to the sandbar. During high tide, the sandbars disappear and can become surrounded by deep water, he said.
Monday, the low tide was sometime in the early afternoon and the high tide was at about 6:30 p.m., according to saltwatertides.com., a website that gives nationwide daily tidetables.
Although the Town of Huntington prohibits swimming in the area where Arnold drowned and Carter said there are "No Trespassing" signs posted, people often make their way to the sandbar, a popular fishing spot.
"People who go out and fish there do so at their own risk," Carter said. According to Suffolk police Lt. Gerard Pelkofsky, fishermen on a boat offshore came to Arnold's aid after they saw him go under the water. They put Arnold in their boat and took him to shore.
"He had taken in too much water by the time they got to him," Pelkofsky said Tuesday. Officials recommend that saltwater anglers check tidal conditions before they head out and make sure to bring the appropriate safety gear - including a life jacket - if they plan to fish from spots where they could end up in the water.
"Know when high tide is," said Jim Gilmore, chief of the state Department of Environmental Conservation's Bureau of Marine Resources. "If you're going out on a jetty or a sandbar, the situation is going to change in six hours."
With Stacey Altherr
and Jennifer Smith