Captain dies when tugboat sinks in icy waters; 3 saved
FIRE ISLAND, N.Y. (AP) -- A tugboat captain died while three other crew members who were able to don immersion suits survived when their boat sank in icy waters about a mile off Fire Island, authorities say.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Morgan Gallapis said she did not know what caused the boat to sink Saturday afternoon, although it was storming at the time.
The Sea Bear was behind two other tugboats heading back to base when it started sinking about 2 p.m. Gallapis said one of the crew members managed to make a cellphone call to the Coast Guard and ask for help.
"They had only seconds to let us know before they sank," said Gallapis, who is based with the New Haven, Connecticut, Coast Guard station.
The three crew members wearing immersion suits were rescued by the Coast Guard from the water a mile off a section known as Fire Island Pines, Gallapis said. They were treated for hypothermia at the Fire Island Coast Guard station but otherwise had no physical injuries, she said.
The body of on-duty captain, Donald Maloney, was found shortly after 5 p.m., authorities said. Suffolk County police said Maloney had not been able to put on an immersion suit as the boat was sinking in 37-degree waters.
Police identified the three survivors as Lars Vetland, 43, of Staten Island; Jason Reimer, 38, of Leonardo, New Jersey; and Rainer Bendixen, 22, of Bay Head, New Jersey.
Fire Island is a long, skinny barrier island that hugs the south shore of Long Island. The tugboat was heading back to its base in Bayonne, New Jersey, after working in Moriches on a dredging project, police said. Wittich Brothers Marine Inc. owns the boat.
"This tug was in the back of the line when it sank," said Gallapis. "The other tugs continued without seeing them. They heard the distress call and headed back to assist in the search."
Suffolk County police said the inclement weather prevented their aviation officers from flying and police Marine Bureau boats were hampered by heavy ice in the water. Three Coast Guard boats, a helicopter, the two other tugboats, Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau boats and Suffolk officers on the beach all searched for Maloney.
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