4 rescued when tugboat overturns off Long Island


The incident happened approximately four and a half miles south of Atlantic Beach around 4 p.m., when the 38-foot towing vessel Sea Lion began taking on water.

It was a combination of luck and quick thinking that saved four men from their sinking tugboat.

It was a close call. The last of the four men was captured in a photo clutching his chest and cleaning on the bow of their 38-foot vessel with only seconds to spare.

"Three started swimming over and I think he didn't swim because of his chest pains and he was holding on for his life," said Michael Gove, of the pilot boat "America".

Their towing vessel "Sea Lion" went down about four miles off Atlantic Beach and these guys from the Sandy Hook Pilot Station in Staten Island heard the mayday call and knew they needed to think fast.

"After two minutes, we never would have found them so somebody was on their side," said Tom Sullivan, of the Sandy Hook Pilot Station.

"When we showed up, those guys were in serious jeopardy," said Rob Dobrowolski, a Sandy Hook pilot.

Ironically, the men in trouble were in this area after another tugboat went down just two days before. Those on both boats claim a wave got the best of them.

"It is very unusual, but I don't know the answer. But it is unusual, no doubt. Very unusual," Dobrowolski said.

The first tugboat that sank left the barge it was towing stranded by Atlantic Beach on Monday.

The men on the second tugboat were trying to figure out the best way to retrieve the barge.

Ultimately, the Sandy Hook pilots rescued three of the four who were on the sinking tugboat.

"It's pretty surreal, not everybody gets a chance to see something like this, not that you'd want to," said Mark Wanderer, a Sandy Hook Pilot.

The final man, who was clinging on to the tugboat as it sank, was saved by a private sight-seeing vessel that was also in the right place at the right time.

"On the radio, I heard the mayday call come in from the Coast Guard," rescuer Bjoern Kils said. "The man was holding on. He was grabbing his chest."

The group of marine salvage workers heard the calls and came to the rescue.

"They said the boat was floating, and then he said, 'We're going down fast,'" another rescuer said. "We see a guy who's very much on the edge of death."

"The boat sank below him," Kils said. "It was like in the Titanic movie."

"The guy just jumped like Superman and just jumped in the water," a rescuer said. "And we just like grabbed him, like half in the water, just grabbed him out and yanked him to the boat."

It was not a minute too soon, for as they pulled him in, the boat went down.

"It was dead weight we were pulling on board," Kils said. "We just heard wind, like the water was shooting out."

"Just went down in two seconds," another said. "Just see bubbles flying up and air shooting up."

And just like that, the doomed tugboat disappeared into the sea.

The man was reunited with his three shipmates on Atlantic Beach, where paramedics rushed them all to the hospital, all very lucky for the brave boaters who saved their lives.

The Good Samaritans work for a company called Greater New York Marine, which had hired the boat from New York Media Boat to transport them to the site of a different tugboat that sank the day before just a few miles away.

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