MOUNT SINAI, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Suffolk County Police officers and firefighters from the Mount Sinai Fire Department rescued three hunters after their boat capsized in the frigid waters of Mount Sinai Harbor Sunday morning.
Authorities say 47-year-old James Knipe, a multiple sclerosis sufferer from Middle Island, was coming back from duck hunting with his son, James, 17, and 16-year-old Kendrick Pisano, of Miller Place, in a boat in the harbor when their vessel took on water and overturned. After they entered the water, they clung to the overturned boat and the elder Knipe called 911.
“We could have died, there’s no question about that,” James Sr. told CBS2’s Scott Rapoport in an exclusive interview. “God was all over it.”
His son he managed to call for help on his friend’s cellphone, which fortunately had a protective case on it and was somehow still working. He hit “emergency.”
“That saved our lives, I think. That saved our lives,” James Jr. said.
Responding police officers observed the three victims clinging to the boat and holding onto life jackets.
Members of the fire department launched an inflatable vessel and rescued the younger Knipe and Pisano from the water. Officers from the Suffolk Police Marine Bureau pulled the 47-year-old father from the water.
All three victims were brought to the boat ramp and transported to nearby hospitals for treatment of exposure and hypothermia. The Knipes were taken to Stony Brook University Hospital and Pisano was taken to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital.
Authorities say the water temperature was approximately 45 degrees at the time of the incident.
The Knipes said their gratitude for their rescuers is immeasurable.
“It’s a heroic thing for them to do,” the father said.
“Thank God they were there, because if they didn’t come, we wouldn’t have made it back,” his son said.
New York State law requires personal flotation devices be worn at all times on vessels less than 21 feet in length from Nov 1 to May 1.