Five Smithtown employees jumped from a bay constable boat into the chilly waters of the Nissequogue River when their vessel overturned Tuesday, but they were rescued by workers on a dredging barge, town officials said.
Three bay constables and two parks employees were collecting channel markers at the head of the river not far from shore, when a “rogue wave” hit just before noon, sending water through its open side cargo door, said Deputy Chief Kevin McPadden of the Smithtown Department of Public Safety.
“It took a mouthful of water and then leaned,” McPadden said of the 26-foot boat. “From that time on, the current took over.”
With the boat about to overturn, a sergeant constable ordered all on board to jump, he said.
On a nearby barge, five workers from HL Contracting were dredging the river as part of a state contract, and they threw out lines to the town employees and launched a skiff, the deputy chief said. Within 15 minutes, they pulled three men from the water and one clinging to the hull of the overturned boat, he said. The fifth town employee was able to swim a few dozen yards to shore, he said.
“If it wasn’t for those folks on the barge, we could have had a very serious situation,” McPadden said. “We were very lucky there was no loss of life.”
The town employees were taken to Kings Park Bluff, where they were treated by Kings Park firefighters for hypothermia, and were then taken to St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, McPadden said. Four were released and the fifth was admitted for more evaluations, but is also expected to recover, he said Tuesday night.
McFadden said the barge workers used their heavy equipment to right the boat, which was taken to shore.