Friday, March 04, 2011

A Rescue In Rockaway

I checked in with Viv, and she gave permission to post the email she'd sent around to the club once she'd gotten the story. It ended up being written up for the paper by another reporter there, and I've added that at the end, but I like Viv's writeup - good to have a kayaker's take on the story!

There was indeed a very close call for a Jamaica Bay kayaker who faced possible death from hypothermia on Tuesday, and a well-prepared local resident, who fishes with the harbor rescue guys and knew just who to call, saved the kayaker's life within minutes! Sebago is responding with information and education for the public. Bonnie at "Frogma" and Vivian Carter ("RockViv" of Oy Vey Rockaway!) are on the job!

Rock Viv met the unfortunate (but extremely lucky) kayaker and his rescuer yesterday, and it is a good story. But I don't think either broadcast or print media picked it up, so you may not have heard. There will be a small piece in the Wave on Friday, and hopefully a longer piece on cold-water paddling safety penned by Bonnie for next week. You can buy the Wave on newsstands in Rockaway, at Ragtime in Howard Beach, or at Sherwood Diner on Rockaway Turnpike near Costco. However, the online edition can't be seen until two weeks from tomorrow, unless you have a subscription. This information is important to put out there right away, so feel free to circulate this email widely!

I was told that due to privacy restrictions, it's often difficult in police and fire rescue, crime and accident cases to find out more from either medical or law enforcement sources. I just happen to know a bay front resident from my church who gave me the name and approximate address of the rescuer. Believe it or not, I found him by looking in the phone book! So retro!

Anyway, here's the story:

Felix lives in the area known as "Arverne by the Bay," near Beach 70th Street on the Rockaway Peninsula. He has a bright orange, 16 foot kayak, and a wet suit. Recently, he's been kayaking several times a week for exercise, launching into the bay at Dubos Point (around Beach 60th Street), heading up past Brant Point (around Beach 70th), on to the Cross Bay Bridge (around Beach 95th), and then returning. Most times, he wears a wet suit. With the warm weather this week, he decided to try it without the wetsuit, although the water temperature was still quite cold (probably in the 40's). He was wearing woolen winter clothes and a warm winter hat (but no drysuit--not even a wetsuit!). He almost didn't return.

Felix launched (it appears) with minimal safety gear. He said that he was hit by a wave and a cross current (probably as he passed Silver Hole Marsh), and capsized. He tried to right the boat but it was filled with water. The tide was outgoing, so he tried to head toward land and wave for help. Not clear whether he had a pump, a whistle, a radio, or a cell phone.

Another neighborhood resident, Francisco, was (fortunately) sitting in his backyard along the bay at noon on Tuesday, March 1 when something orange caught his eye as it floated by. Then he saw a hand reach up and wave to him; he realized it was a guy hanging onto his boat. It was Felix. Francisco fishes frequently, often with the guys from the rescue units, so he didn't call 911, instead he called his buddies at the Parks Police rescue unit at their dispatch location. A helicopter arrived within 3 minutes, and plucked Felix from the water. Another resident had also called 911, police reported. Francisco said that they've seen similar incidents along the bay in that area over the years, and that if he had tried calling 911 he might have still been on the phone with the operator by the time Felix was rescued. So, being prepared and ready to respond, Francisco surely saved Felix's life!

After I got in touch with Francisco, he and Felix came to The Wave to tell their story, and have a photo taken. I hope it will appear in the paper, together with Bonnie's safety message.

Here's the resulting article from today's print edition of The Wave:

So, a happy ending, and an awfully nice lead-in for my annual sermon.

And visiting the Wave's website reminded me - I'm an online subscriber, because Viv does get some fun stories about the club in there. She had a good one with pictures about the Frostbite Regatta - well, we're well past the 2 weeks from publishing during which articles are only available to subscriber, so that should now be available for everyone's enjoyment!


DaveO said...

This is even more important in our neck of the woods where the water can kill a person in August and the nearest help is several hundred miles away in lower Michigan. A very timely post as Great Lakes ice begins to break up and stir crazy paddlers hit the water. I may have to kick one out myself......thank you ma'am.

Iceland Circumnavigation said...

Is it possible to convince him to join Sebago? This way he can paddle with groups, and learn more about adequate on-the-water clothing?


bonnie said...

I think he's probably learned a good lesson...but yeah...

Your question also makes me wonder if that group that was trying to form a boathouse out there has made any progress. Viv comes to Sebago, but Sebago's a bit of a trek for people who have places to keep kayaks out there and launches so close to their homes.

Don said...

Alternate explanations:

1) No skirt and no roll. If it was a nice day then getting upright with a dry boat would beat going out with the tide wearing just a wetsuit in 40 degree water.

2) Nice day. It was probably around zero here that day and no temptation to paddle without adequate covering or alone.
Certainly we will get some hot sunny days before the water goes over 40. April or May.

bonnie said...

This got a little out of order, it was originally going to be rescue story first, then spring boating safety lecture, but I ended up doing the lecture first. That included mention of how this sounded like the classic warm-day, cold water scenario that tempts people out without realizing the risks of falling in. Also talked about the importance of practicing rescues, both self and assisted, in controlled circumstances.

A good roll is of course the best and most efficient of all the self-rescue, but if a paddler hasn't got that, they at least should make sure that they've know some way to get back in.

PeconicPuffin said...

Lucky man. Yikes. Glad it all worked out.