RONKONKOMA, Long Island (WABC) -- A typical day of hunting for Nick Shakalis almost turned deadly.
The 34-year-old inventory manager from Plainview was clinging to his capsized kayak in the Narrow Bay by Mastic Beach after he says a strong wind gust knocked him in.
"The wind was going in one direction and I think the current was spinning in another direction, creating a whirlpool," said Shakalis.
It left Shakalis stuck in frigid waters, like a sitting duck.
"I just held on for dear life because the kayak was going to float, I knew that. I had the life vest too in the other hand so I just held on as best I could," he said.
Shakalis says he was trying to retrieve a goose from the water that he shot while hunting. His cousin and friend, who were on the shore, called police - but time was running out.
"It was really a matter of minutes," said Stony Brook Hospital Flight Paramedic Erin Carey.
Suffolk County Police Officer Jonathan Jensen jumped in.
"It was a little scary seeing the condition that he was in," Jensen said, "He was verbal. He could tell me what his name was, how old he was, but he didn't really have use of his limbs anymore."
"My fingers and my hands and my arms were going numb," said Shakalis.
"He was barely holding on to the kayak," added Jensen.
After 40 minutes in the water, Shakalis was brought more than a quarter of a mile back to shore.
Suffolk Police quickly flew him to Stony Brook University Hospital
"I definitely consider myself lucky to be alive," said Shakalis.
Shakalis had a message for the officers.
"Forever grateful to you guys and I'm going to stop by and say hi sometime in the next day or two," he said.
"We would love to see him in better condition, obviously," said Command Pilot Sgt. John Vahey.
Shakalis' brother says their family is overwhelmed with gratitude, because without the first responders, Shakalis would not be here.
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