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Apr 7, 2014 9:32 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Coast Guard Rescues Three From Burning Boat Sunday

Apr 8, 2014 4:41 PM

The U.S. Coast Guard rescued two men and a woman from a burning boat that later sank near the Shinnecock Inlet on Sunday afternoon.

A Good Samaritan reported the fire aboard the 36-foot cabin cruiser at 2:03 p.m., according to Southampton Town Police. Authorities said they think the fast-moving blaze started in the engine room of the 1977 Pacemaker, whose owner—identified by officials as Kevin Poirier, 36, of Manhattan—purchased the vessel last month and was attempting to transport it from Freeport to Montauk on Sunday afternoon.

“While they were cruising along, they started having engine problems,” Southampton Town Bay Constable Mark Ruocco said on Tuesday. “One of the engines stalled and shut off. It was probably some kind of a fuel leak, but it was definitely a fuel fire in the engine room.”

A boat crew from the nearby Coast Guard Station Shinnecock was on the scene about 10 minutes later to pluck Mr. Poirier and his two passengers—Tom Schlegel, 34, and Michelle Madden, 29, both of Hoboken, New Jersey—from the ocean and about three-quarters of a mile from the shore.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Alfred Diaz spoke to the three people over the phone and kept them aboard the burning boat for as long as possible, according to Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Rogers. He explained that, because of that direction, the three were in the water for only approximately two minutes before rescuers arrived and pulled them from the frigid ocean.

“The water was too cold for them to just jump in—it was about 40 degrees,” Petty Officer Rogers said on Monday morning. “We were able to get them out after about two minutes and they only had minor cases of hypothermia.”

Mr. Poirier, Mr. Schlegel and Ms. Madden swam to an inflatable life raft that they threw into the water prior to jumping in, according to Mr. Ruocco. They had only two life jackets between the three of them, according to a Coast Guard press release.

Coast Guard personnel transported all three to the marina at Oakland’s Restaurant on Dune Road in Hampton Bays where members of the Hampton Bays Volunteer Ambulance Corps checked them out before transporting them to Southampton Hospital. They were treated and released within a few hours, according to authorities.

Petty Officer Rogers, who was part of the rescue effort, said the boat was “fully engulfed in flames” when he arrived on the scene. Mr. Poirier had an extinguisher on board but was unable to use it because the flames spread too quickly, according to authorities.

The Southampton Town Bay Constables sent two boats to assist with the rescue and the North Sea Fire Department sent a fire boat to douse the flames. The fire boat arrived just before 3 p.m. and, by then, it was too late to save the boat, according to Mr. Ruocco. He said the boat burned down to the water line and then sank.

Because the antiquated vessel ran on gasoline instead of slower-burning diesel fuel like most modern boats, the fiberglass vessel likely burned quicker than it would have otherwise, according to Mr. Ruocco.

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yeah they sure do! I didn't know that north sea FD covers the atlantic ocean
By LovinLife (61), East Quogue on Apr 7, 14 11:03 AM
1 member liked this comment
Amazingly quick responses by Station Shinnecock and North Sea FD (see photos just posted), especially if they had to come through the Canal. By any chance was the FD boat out on the water for a Sunday training exercise?

Lucky boaters . . .
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 7, 14 1:31 PM
North Sea has a habit of wandering out of their district...
By Jaws (245), Amity Island on Apr 8, 14 12:04 AM
It is reported elsewhere that they were on their way to Montauk, and that they reported the fire with a 911 call. No VHF? No survival suits? Flares?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 7, 14 4:21 PM
Southampton Bay Constables also had Two vessels on scene within minutes and will more than likely be conducting an accident investigation !! Thanks to all the first responders !!
By Fishmonger (7), east quogue on Apr 7, 14 5:54 PM
2 members liked this comment
Why weren't the Southampton Town Bay Constables who responded and were on scene mentioned in the story?? And as for the North Sea Fire Dept, they always respond on their own looking for something to do. they were well out of their district probably breaking the Memorandum of Understanding between the USCG and other agencies smh :/
By Jaws (245), Amity Island on Apr 8, 14 12:01 AM
FYI, The Southampton Fire Department received a call on this fire and were responding in while additional information was being received. It was their call to advise North Sea of the fire being they are one of the only marine units in the area capable of fire suppression on the water. Once assured survivors were on the cost guard boat Southampton did not deploy their boat, but kept North Sea coming.
Both Southampton and North Sea actually have very thorough training with the Cost Guard and ...more
By MACK (50), Southampton on Apr 8, 14 8:20 AM
The article has been updated. The boat was new to the owner, and a Good Samaritan reported the fire. The only safety equipment mentioned is TWO life preservers for the three people (no radio, etc.).

So lucky . . .

Here comes summer!
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 8, 14 5:07 PM
PS they were en route from Freeport to Montauk, and had the good fortune of breaking down close to a USCG station.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 8, 14 5:09 PM
And a life raft...
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Apr 8, 14 11:16 PM
1 member liked this comment
Is there an article on which you do not bloviate?
By Beach Grass (7), Westhampton Beach on Apr 12, 14 6:59 AM