EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Ninive Petrocelli was described as a talented and intelligent artist and businesswoman, but officials said she was not wearing a life jacket on her boat this past weekend when she went overboard and lost her life.
As CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, Suffolk County police on Monday were investigating Petrocelli’s mysterious death in the swirling waters off the Hamptons.
Ninive Petrocelli, 39, of the Upper West Side, was boating with her husband – Manhattan contractor John Petrocelli, 54 — offshore from Montauk Point late Saturday night, police said.
“During the night she became cold and told him that she was going to return to the cabin of the boat to retrieve a sweater,” Suffolk County police Detective Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick told 1010 WINS. “He realized that it was taking an extraordinarily long time for her to return and went to look for her. That’s when he realized she was not on the boat.”
John Petrocelli noticed his wife was gone around midnight and notified the U.S. Coast Guard, police said.
“They responded within 12 minutes, and a number of commercial fishing boats and sportsmen also,” Fitzpatrick told CBS 2.
Among the searchers was fisherman Chuch Wheat.
“I got the call. I turned around the lighthouse, and we just kept going,” Wheat said. “And unfortunately, this lady couldn’t be saved, because there are heavy-duty currents out at the lighthouse.”
The boat was anchored two miles off the eastern tip of Long Island, in the Block Island Sound.
Ninive’s body was found by a boater around 11:30 a.m. Sunday — nearly 12 hours after her disappearance – three nautical miles miles south of Montauk, Fitzpatrick said. She did not have a life jacket, 1010 WINS reported.
It is unclear how Ninive ended up off the boat, but police are investigating whether conditions on the water may have been a factor. Ninive’s distraught husband said he heard no screaming or splashing, and never saw her go overboard.
“We are told by the Coast Guard that the seas were about three-foot-high at the time of the accident — not exceptionally rough, but certainly not completely calm,” Fitzpatrick said.
As of Monday afternoon, the 45-foot vessel named “In the Clutch” was in the hands of police investigators, surrounded by yellow crime scene tape at the U.S. Coast Guard station in Montauk.
Ninive and John Petrocelli had been married for four years, and were described as devoted to one another.
And as CBS 2’s Tracee Carrasco reported, friends were quick to stand up for John Petrocelli. The owner of the marina where they kept their boat said they were always holding hands.
“It was definitely not a murder mystery type of event. It was a true boating accident,” said Montauk Basin Marina owner Carl Darenberg. “They were very much in love that I could see. And she just fell overboard, and he couldn’t get to her fast enough.”
In the Petrocellis’ Upper West Side neighborhood Monday, neighbors described their marriage as solid and strong.
John Petrocelli owns a big construction firm in New Jersey, and is on his second marriage. Ninive Petrocelli ran an architectural glass company in Midtown called Cristol Inc.
Her colleagues and friends were heartbroken Monday.
“She was the most giving, loving, cheerful, with the most angelic soul,” said co-worker Rebekah Brown.
“A heart of gold that is, you know, beautiful through and through on the inside and touched everybody that she came into,” said friend Lesley Young.
The Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s Office was to determine cause of death. Toxicology tests will also be undertaken.
Suffolk County police said John Petrocelli was been 100 percent responsive during the investigation.
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