Greenwich Police Rescue Kayaker in Frigid LIS Waters
By Paul Silverfarb
The Greenwich Police Department’s Marine Operations Section was called into action Saturday to assist a kayaker that fell into the frigid waters of Long Island Sound and was suffering from hypothermia.
At approximately 11:15 a.m., Greenwich Police Sgt. Michael O’Connor was stationed at the Greenwich Marine Division when he received a mayday call on his VHF radio stating that a kayaker was in the water and could not get back into her kayak, located just north of Great Captains Island.
O’Connor contacted fellow Sgt. Sean O’Donnell, who was working the Greenwich Police Department desk, to assist in the rescue. According to the report, both O’Donnell and O’Connor located three kayakers 200 yards north of Great Captains Island.
O’Connor said that the water temperature was a very cold 38 degrees, with wind speeds between 20 and 30 miles per hour and wave height between two and three feet.
The air temperature was 35 degrees.
O’Connor was able to get Police Boat 125 alongside the kayakers and O’Donnell threw a line to secure them next to the police boat.
“It was observed that the victim was exhausted and soaking wet, lying prone on her kayak still partially within the water,” said O’Connor in a release. The victim was wearing a personal floatation device, but wasn’t wearing a correct dry suit that would have protected the victim from the elements.
Because the victim was unable to help herself into the police boat, O’Connor left the helm and aided O’Donnell in getting her on the boat. With assistance, she was able to stand up and head into the cabin of the police boat, where her wet clothes were removed and she was immediately wrapped up in a blanket.
“Despite all the precautions you may take, the weather is unforgiving and if you’re not prepared, you can lose your life,” said O’Connor. “These kayakers got lucky, but you should always err on the side of safety, and if it’s not looking good with regards to weather, then don’t go out.”
The other two kayakers with the victim told police they were uninjured and healthy enough to return to Byram Harbor without assistance.
The victim was taken by police boat to the Indian Harbor Yacht Club, where the Greenwich Emergency Medical Service ambulance was waiting. Upon arrival at Greenwich Hospital, GPD said, the victim, who was suffering from hypothermia, had a body temperature of around 94 degrees.
She has since been released from Greenwich Hospital—and all’s well that ends well, thanks to the preparedness of the Greenwich Police Department’s Marine Operations Section.
“In the morning, we open up all the boats and make sure they are ready to go,” O’Connor said. “We are very familiar with the Greenwich waters. We were able to get out to those kayakers very quickly. All said and done, from the time the call came out and we had the victim in the boat, I’m thinking it was a little over 10 minutes. We’ve gone out of here to calls in mid Long Island Sound, like injuries on fishing charters for example, and gotten there in 15 minutes.”
O’Connor said that boating safety is a big concern throughout town and he believes knowing the environment is key.
“I think you have to weigh your ability versus what is going on with the weather and knowing that the weather can get worse,” O’Connor said. “If there is an approaching storm, especially if there are small craft warnings or gale warnings, then don’t go. You need to weigh your skill versus the activity and the weather and the sea state. If there’s any doubt, don’t go out.”
Another way to help that to learn about the surroundings. That’s where the Greenwich Power Squadron comes into play.
According to the United States Power Squadron, most accidents involve open boats 24 feet and under.
In addition, they said that over 85 percent of boating deaths are due to drowning, while over 85 percent of downing victims were not wearing life jackets.
Also, over 80 percent of boating fatalities involve those who had not taken a safe boating class.
The Greenwich Squadron is offering a one-day class for a Connecticut Boating Certificate on both May 6 and June 10.
Cost is $80 per student and that includes a text book, coffee and a lunch. To find out more, or to sign up, contact Andy Cummings at GreenwichSquadron@gmail.com.