Long Island rescue teams test new life-saving tool

TOBAY BEACH, Nassau County (WABC) -- The temperatures were warm and the skies were sunny at Tobay Beach on Wednesday. But swimmers forget just how cold the water can be. It's why rescue teams from the Nassau County Aviation and Marine Units were testing a new tool.

"And the accuracy, which is what we're training for today, is probably better, than some of the other equipment we've seen," said Lt. Adam Fischer, Commanding Officer of the Nassau County Aviation Unit.

They're learning how to use special drop sticks, which weigh about a pound, but are hydrostatic, inflating instantly with a CO2 cartridge, once they strike the water.

"It's like a huge pool noodle that blows up with air," said Lt. Gregg Magnifico, Commanding Officer of the Nassau County Marine Bureau.

Eyewitness News rode along in the helicopter with the aviation unit to see just how targeted a rescue they could do, and watched as they came within just a few feet of their swimmer.

Had it been an actual swimmer in distress, "Hopefully when they see this thing, it blows up full of air. They're gonna grab this thing like they're in love with it," Lt. Magnifico explained.

Wednesday's drill involved both Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

Nassau hopes to deploy about 50 of the sticks, but they're still training with them. Suffolk County has been using them already for a few years.

Suffolk County police say their Marine Bureau did nearly 300 search and rescue missions last year alone. Nassau County's Aviation Unit responded to at least 100 water emergencies.

As the beaches get busier this season, so will the rescue teams. They say they're hoping a small tool can make a huge difference, in a matter of seconds.

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