Sailboat capsizes during brief on Nassau County boat safety

WANTAGH, New York (WABC) -- Police in Nassau County are highlighting boating safety measures as people head out on the water for the summer months.

It wasn't exactly the morning that they hoped for, but ironically - Robert Diehlmann's 16-foot sailboat capsized in the waters right off Wantagh Park, right at the moment the county executive and police commissioner were holding a press conference on boating safety.

According to officials, a strong gust of wind overturned the vessel, throwing both passengers overboard.

The Nassau County Police Marine Bureau was conveniently on hand to save them.

Officers located the victims and safely placed them aboard Marine 1.

"I told 'em it wasn't staged, either," Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said.

"We were out for about an hour, the wind's a little shifty out there," Diehlmann said.

Luckily, they were wearing personal flotation devices, which police say every boater must have.

Police also had plenty of other reminders, especially since the waters are much more crowded now due to an increase in boating during the pandemic.

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"You can't find a boat to purchase out here right now -- everybody's on the water," Ryder said.

"There aren't lanes, it's not as clear, but you have to be aware of the people around you," Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said.

It's important to point out, boating accidents are on the rise in Nassau County over the past couple of years. They've quadrupled from just seven in 2019, to 32 in 2020, and Nassau County has had four fatalities out on the water.

We've seen the harrowing rescues like this one on the Long Island Sound.

On Wednesday, police made routine inspections, calling in kayakers not wearing life vests and urging people not to drink alcohol and drive their boats. They say nearly 20% of all boating fatalities involve alcohol.

As for Diehlmann and his passenger, they're ok, except for some soreness.

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It was an ordeal that played out with just tweets from officials, but made real when they posted a photo and video of the vessel and its bow with nothing under it.



"We'll see how this old body reacts to this. I did right the boat, I just didn't have the strength to get back on," Diehlmann said.

And they'll be back out here with the official start of summer just four days away.


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