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One passenger’s account of a ‘miraculous’ rescue in the Fire Island breach

'We didn't know if they were going to come out alive or dead.' - Corinne Picon

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The five adults made it out from under the capsized boat, but the children didn’t.

And it felt like forever that they were missing.

“We frantically searched for them as waves kept crashing on us,” said Corinne Picon, 36, of Mastic Beach, in recounting Sunday’s “nightmare” in the breach at Old Inlet, a story she shared with greaterpatchogue.com and greaterfireisland.com.

The eight had headed out for an afternoon cruise from Mastic Beach in 66-year-old Anthony Ambrosia’s Wellcraft center console about 2 p.m. Sunday.

They later entered the breach ripped open by Superstorm Sandy.

That was when the boat got stuck on a sandbar near where the bay and ocean meet.

Picon’s two daughters, Aubree, 7, and Ava, 6, had also been on their grandfather’s boat the day before. (See the pictures). Today they were joined by Corinne Picon’s boyfriend, Danny Wakefield, 35, his son, Jamison, 12, and Picon’s best friend, Jennifer Geiger, 27 and her daughter, Krista, 14.

The eight, all from Mastic Beach and Shirley, got stranded on the sandbar together at around 4 p.m Sunday in the 22- or 23-foot boat.

Then the waves struck. And struck. And struck.

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Ava Gilliland, 6, on her grandfather’s boat Saturday. (courtesy)

 

“We hit the sandbar and then everything happened so fast,” Picon said. “The waves just overtook the boat. They were crashing on the bow. We took on a lot of water with the first wave. Then the second knocked us all to one side with more water.

“The third thew us out and the boat on top of us. They were back to back.”

The kids went missing, but the waves kept coming.

“Me, Danny, Dad and Jen and Krista made it out from under the boat, but Aubree, Ava and Jamison didn’t,” Picon said. “We finally felt their legs and Danny was able to pull them all out one by one. We didn’t know if they were going to come out alive or dead.”

The kids had found an air pocket inside the capsized boat; they were very much alive.

“After getting everyone above water, we threw the kids on top of the capsized boat to assess them quickly as the waves continued to crash on us,” Picon continued. “Then we had to fight the waves and get everyone about a half mile to the shore.

“It felt like we would never make it.”

The eight were working their way toward the western side of the breach when they were spotted by passersby, which included actress and prominent Bellport resident Isabella Rosellini, who was with a friend.

There was also another man, identified by Picon only as Travis, and his girlfriend who were visiting Long Island for the weekend, she said.

“They were walking along the beach and heard us screaming for help and dialed 911 and Travis ran into the water to help us bring the girls in,” Picon said. “Then another couple — Isabella Rossellini and her friend — came walking over and gave us water and dry towels while we waited for help.”

The two men, Travis and Rossellini’s friend, brought her father to safety.

“He was ready to give up the moment they arrived,” Picon said.

According to our original news report, published Monday morning, the lifeguards at Ho-Hum Beach to the west had heard the emergency transmission and ran the 1.5-mile span of the beach to help.

Fire Island National Seashore rangers then drove the group westward down the village’s beach area, where they were met at Bellport’s Ho-Hum Beach Marina Suffolk County Police Department Marine Bureau officers.

There they boarded Bellport’s Whalehouse Point Ferry and were captained to land by Mark Leuly, who was making his last run of the day.

All eight passengers were taken by South Country Ambulance to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

“Isabella gave my daughters her towel and her vest to keep them warm,” Picon recalled thankfully. “She gave us water and helped everyone stay calm. Her and her friend stayed with us until we got to the ambulances on the other side.”

“Thanks again to all who responded and helped us through such a terrifying experience,” she added.

Picon also cited the heroic actions of her boyfriend, Danny Wakefield.

“He pulled all three kids out from under the boat,” she said. “I tried myself but wasn’t strong enough. Their life vests were keeping them up and they were holding onto whatever they could reach to keep their own heads up in the air pocket.”

“And Jamison kept the girls calm under there,” she added.

“It is absolutely miraculous we all survived.”


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Aubree Gilliland, 7, on her grandfather’s boat Saturday. (courtesy)

 

Note: The Fire Island Wilderness Breach is not recognized as a navigable inlet by the U.S. Coast Guard. The area is not marked by any buoys and caution is required. The National Park Service (NPS) is in the process of making a decision to determine whether or not to close the breach.

From Fire Island National Seashore: Mechanized vessels are prohibited within the wilderness breach. Not only does this dynamic feature presents a significant safety risk to boaters but it is located within a federally designated wilderness managed “to preserve natural conditions” and to be “untrammeled by man,” where motorized equipment is prohibited.

Original Story:

Boat rescue at Old Inlet after 911 call from actress Isabella Rossellini

About the author: Michael White

Michael White is a Bellport resident, longtime newspaper reporter and editor, and the owner of greaterpatchogue.com. Email him your story ideas or tips: mike@greaterpatchogue.com