A kayaking trip in Jamaica Bay went dangerously wrong for two men on Saturday afternoon, forcing their dramatic rescue from the 40-degree waters in cold, windy conditions.
The kayakers, whose names have not been released, were paddling in the waters of Jamaica Bay near Broad Channel Saturday afternoon when their kayak capsized, throwing them both into the chilly water.
A resident on Lanark Road — a residential street that juts out into Jamaica Bay near the neighborhood’s subway station — saw one of the men flailing in the water near the A train’s bridge between Broad Channel and the Rockaways, and called 911.
An NYPD Air Sea Rescue helicopter was dispatched and saw the two. Detective Brian Singer and Police Officer Marian Kopystianskyj, divers assigned to the Harbor Unit, retrieved one kayaker, a 71-year-old man, from the bay and transported him to the Aviation Base at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. They were met by EMS, which transported the male to Kings County Hospital. He was treated for hypothermia and was listed in stable condition.
Back at the scene off Broad Channel, Detective John Kenny, assigned to the Emergency Services Unit, observed the second kayaker, a 32-year-old, swimming to a boat that was anchored in the bay off East 12th Road. The man was able to board the boat and Kenny donned his wet suit and swam out 200 yards to the vessel, fearing the man would need medical attention. Once on board the boat, he realized that the man was suffering from hypothermia.
Officers assigned to Harbor Adam — a police harbor unit based in Canarsie, Brooklyn — responded to the scene and removed the second male, as well as Kenny, from the anchored boat and took them to the shoreline at East 12th Road and Cross Bay Boulevard. There they were met by EMS, which transported the kayaker to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center and Kenny to Lutheran Hospital in Brooklyn. Both were treated for hypothermia and were listed in stable condition.
Don Riepe, a Broad Channel resident and president of the Northeast Chapter of the American Littoral Society, said he had not seen kayakers in the bay for a long time and that although some people do take to the bay’s waters in the winter, it is not common — nor advised — on a windy day after a major storm, like Saturday.
“There are some people who go out in the winter, but you go out in the calm,” Riepe said. “In this weather, though, you’re really risking your life.”
Though the weather was sunny at the time of the incident, wind gusts at nearby JFK Airport were reported to be in the 20 to 25 mph range, not considered good conditions for kayaking, said Dan Mundy, Sr., president of Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers
“I don't know what they were thinking of or what they were doing,” he said. “They almost paid the price with their lives.”