Long Island Sound

FaceTime Saves Capsized Boaters in Long Island Sound

Two boaters from Springfield, Mass. are safe after dispatchers used FaceTime to pinpoint their location.

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A familiar tool saved two men who were boating in Long Island Sound.

The pair from Springfield, Massachusetts intended to go fishing Tuesday afternoon, but mechanical problems and choppy waters quickly changed those plans. At around 4:37 p.m., the boaters dialed 9-1-1 once they realized they were sinking.

"It's not a phone call you get every day or in your career even,” said Jon Leonard, public safety dispatcher with East Lyme Police.  

For Leonard, it was the first time in more than 27 years that he used FaceTime to complete a water rescue mission.

“Halfway through their phone call, there was a rustling. I couldn't understand what he said, but finally he comes back to the phone and said the boat had capsized,” Leonard said.

Body camera footage shows the men standing on the underside of the boat as they waited for help. Locating them, however, was difficult.

"The male caller was stating that he was off the coast of Millstone, but according to his GPS location, there was quite a distance between,” Leonard said.

Two men from Springfield, Massachusetts were rescued after their boat capsized in Long Island Sound thanks to East Lyme police dispatchers who used FaceTime to help determine where they were.

So, to pinpoint their location, the men were instructed to use FaceTime to show what was around them, which allowed dispatchers to use landmarks see where they were.

Marine units from the Niantic Fire Department, East Lyme Police Department, Goshen Fire Department and the U.S. Coast Guard all responded. Lieutenant Michael Macek with East Lyme Police was in the first rescue boat to arrive on scene.

"One gentleman miraculously happened to stay dry, he flipped with the boat, and one had gone into the water,” Macek said.

Water temperatures are still dangerously cold. Macek said one to six hours of exposure in 60 degree water temps could be deadly. And while the boaters' life jackets were on board, they were not accessible when they flipped.

In 30 minutes, the men were found a quarter mile from the New York border in Long Island Sound.

NBC Connecticut tried contacting the boaters, but they didn't answer our request for comment Tuesday.

"We were experiencing three-to-four-foot swells out there. And a boat without power, you know, there is no control. They can't control how they're getting into the waves or getting away from them,” Macek said.

Macek, who pulled the men to safety, reminds boaters this summer to avoid overcrowding boats and making sure all safety equipment is on board. 

The East Lyme Police Department and other shoreline communities have also started a new program that provides orange identification stickers to kayakers, canoers and paddle boarders so they can be reached in emergency situations.

“It allows us to respond properly because once we get a vessel out there that has nobody attending it, all the resources that come into it are now tied up looking for a potential victim in the water,” Leonard said.

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