Police received a call from Steven DiStefano, 36, of Shirley at 6:39 p.m. He said he and two other men were on a boat sinking in the “Greenport Canal.” Southold and Shelter Island police patrol units by land and the North Ferry by water kept watch on the waterway between Greenport and Shelter Island, but found no signs of a sinking boat.
By this time, the 1963, 34-foot Chris Craft wooden boat was submerged in the water.
Michael C. Cigna, 36, of Shirley, the owner of the sunken vessel, had drifted about a quarter-mile northwest on a cushion, while
Mr. DiStefano “was able to remain on the protruding bow of the sunken vessel,” police said.
The other man on the boat, 50-year-old Patrick Brinker of Shirley also had floated away from the sunken boat. Waters were described as choppy, and the man could no longer be seen, police said.
While Saturday started off mild and the sun was out in the afternoon, a cold front came through from the north and winds picked up from the east in the early evening, according to Mellisa Dispigna, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Upton. A small craft advisory was in effect at the time with seas of 4 to 7 feet in that part of the Sound. Sustained winds of 20 to 25 mph were reported in the area with gusts of 30 to 35 mph, she said.
Southold police requested Suffolk County aviation to respond, as well as the J.J. Callis, a ferry for Plum Island, the closest boat to the area.
The Orient Fire Department also joined in the search with the inflatable rescue boat and plucked Mr. Cigna, still floating on the cushion, out of the rough waters.
The JJ Callis, captained by John Crowe, 64, of Wading River, arrived at the sunken vessel and two crewmen, Josh Hubbard, 35, of Southold and Nicholas Galiano, 36, of Ridge, rescued Mr. DiSteffano, still clinging to the protruding bow. The Plum Island ferry crew then began looking for Mr. Brinker.
After a short search, Captain Crowe spotted him and maneuvered the ferry to allow his crew to bring him aboard, police said.
All three men were transported to Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport for treatment of hypothermia, “but they appeared otherwise uninjured,” according to police.
One Orient fireman was transported to ELIH for treatment of a knee injury sustained during Mr. Cigna’s rescue.
Police said that the rescue men’s boat had sunk because it struck the rocks on the west side of the Plum Gut lighthouse on their way to Port Jefferson.
The U.S. Coast Guard was notified of the sunken vessel, police said.