The cellphone screen-saver of Babylon Village resident Greg Antolini’s tells a story.
It is a photograph of a 27-foot Suffolk County Police safe boat—the vehicle used during the rescue mission that saved his life.
On Monday, Feb. 11, Antolini visited Suffolk County Police Headquarters in Yaphank, where he personally thanked those that were involved with aiding him when his boat flipped over in the Fire Island Inlet a few months ago.
“This is something that should be recognized and rewarded,” he said. “They came out on a day when they shouldn’t have, they went over and above.”
Back in November, on one of the last striped-bass fishing season days, Antolini ventured out to catch some fish. Antolini, who grew up in West Islip, is no stranger to the seas, having grown up fishing with his father.
On this particular day, the 55-year-old angler, who was alone, said everything went wrong at once.
“I played it wrong, and I caught the wrong wave breaking at the wrong time,” said Antolini, who abandoned ship and plunged into the 57-degree water.
After being in the frigid water for over an hour and a half—with his body temperature dropping to 90 degrees— a rescue team consisting of Suffolk County Police’s Aviation and Marine bureaus were able to spot and rescue him.
“My four kids get to see me every day because I couldn’t thank them enough,” Antolini said, choking back tears.
Below is the footage from the rescue.
the rescue mission
After a morning of fishing in the inlet, Antolini was heading back to the dock in conditions he was familiar with.
“It wasn’t the top-10 worst days I ever fished before,” said Antolini on the over 30 MPH winds and the 10-plus feet waves.
After hitting the wrong wave his boat capsized. In the water, he was able to stay afloat after clinging onto a life vest that fell off his 25-foot, center-console boat.
The first person to recognize the situation was Marine Bureau officer Erik Johnson, who typically works on the North Shore.
“I went to the beach looking for a buoy that broke loose,” explained Johnson. “When I was looking out, I actually saw something that looked like a whale.”
After identifying the object to be a boat, he called for back up from the Aviation Bureau. A search and rescue aircraft was immediately dispatched into the difficult elements.
“The reason it is so hazardous in that area is you have the Atlantic Ocean flowing into the inlet, which is very narrow,” said pilot John Carey on the rough conditions in the area.
After locating him, the aviation officers decided against throwing down a life preserver, since Antolini already had one and they didn’t want to risk him reaching out for another.
Following the team in the sky, was Marine Bureau sergeant John Vahey and his crew on that 27-foot safe boat—a boat that wasn’t supposed to be out in those conditions. “The manufacturer says [the boat can be used in] 6-foot non-breaking seas; this was 10-foot breaking seas,” said the sergeant.
The Coast Guard was unable to respond to the call and the Marine Bureau’s larger boat was enduring engine problems, so it was up to Vahey’s team to pull off the rescue.
Upon securing the floating Antolini, the Babylon man was immediacy treated for hyperthermia and then sent to Stony Brook University Hospital.
Even the traumatic experience won’t stray the long-time fisherman away from the waters.
“I am not afraid to go back out fishing again,” he said. “I had a bad break to start — and then I had a really good break by these guys being on duty.”
Top: Babylon resident Greg Antolini thanking those that helped save his life at Suffolk County Police Headquarters.