FDNY Marine Unit Poised For Busy Summer, Advises Boaters to Follow Some Simple Rules

CBS 2 - July 03, 2019

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The FDNY says boat traffic — both private and commercial — is at an all-time high this summer, driving up the number of potential water rescues.

On Tuesday, CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge met up with a special unit to learn the ropes.

The members of FDNY Marine Company 4 were taking off from Fort Totten in Queens for their daily patrol and training.

“Ready to respond at a moment’s notice. That’s what we do. We live for that,” Lt. Ilya Zerakhto said.

The specialized unit sees hundreds of boats every day, from barges to private yachts to ferry boat and even sea planes. Members say traffic on the water is increasing every year, meaning the marine unit needs to be prepared for anything.

“As we approached the scene there was a female missing. Her husband was on scene and already had been pulled out of the water. He was screaming that his wife was underneath for 40 minutes. We went in with assistance of NYPD divers and happened to get the lady out,” Zerakhto said.

Emergencies like that are exactly what this FDNY summer boats program trains for.

The team is made up of firefighters who apply to become part of the marine unit, from April to November.

“It’s quite a difference dealing with mostly structural fires, completely different from the marine division dealing with boats in distress, people drowning,” the FDNY’s Chris Magas said.

Last season, the unit alone responded to 317 emergencies. On holidays like July 4, unit members say the number of calls surges.

“Can be up to 1,000 boats in this general area here — small boats, big boats. At the end of the fireworks display everybody tries to go home at once and that’s when we really go to work,” Battalion Chief Joseph Abbamonde said.

To prevent potential emergencies, the FDNY has a list of boating advice.

“Don’t drink and operate a vessel. Watch your speed. Watch your no-wake zone. Wear a life jacket,” Zerakhto said.

The FDNY marine unit coordinates with the Coast Guard and NYPD because there’s a lot of ground to cover — 520 miles of shorelines around New York City. So while you’re out having fun this summer unit members say you can make their jobs a lot easier by following the rules of the water.