KINGS PARK, NY (CBSNewYork) — Police in Suffolk County are trying to figure out what caused the tragic death of a veteran NYPD officer whose body was found Saturday after he disappeared while kayaking in Smithtown Bay with his 5-year-old son.
“A recreational boater came upon a man’s body believed to be the New York City Police Department man who fell from his kayak,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer Erik Swanson.
Officer Luca’s body was found about a mile west of where his kayak was recovered and there was no evidence that he had been wearing a life vest.
“He was a young man, a strong young man with a small child,” said Commack resident Meredith Cuomo. “Something must have gone wrong.”
Investigators are still trying to determine how this tragedy unfolded.
“There were some items in the kayak that would have sunk if it had capsized,” said Suffolk County Police Marine Deputy Inspector Harold Jantzen. “Our opinion is it probably did not capsize.”
Luca and his 5-year-old son went out into Smithtown Bay on Friday in an inflatable kayak. Less than 90 minutes later, the boy was floating alone in the water and his father nowhere to be found.
Ted Sandomenico is the boater who spotted the boy. “It was just very, very lucky, that’s all,” said Sandomenico.
He asked the boy where he came from and what went wrong.
“He said he was with his dad and I said ‘Where’s your dad now?’ He said ‘My dad went under,'” said Sandomenico.
Shaken but uninjured, the boy was handed over to authorities. “He was checked out by the medics and they determined he was good to go home with his mother,” said Jantzen.
News of Luca’s passing was felt deeply by fellow members of the NYPD.
“It definitely hits home for us NYPD and the families of the NYPD who help each other out,” said NYPD officer Roy Sullo. “It’s definitely a loss for us.”
Those who knew Luca spoke highly of him. “He’s a fine police officer,” said friend Joel Reinleib. “A very caring family man, a great father figure.”
Friends hope to give support to his wife and family now coping with such an unimaginable loss.
“If she needs anything, anything at all, we’d be happy to do it,” said Reinleib.
In a statement, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly expressed the department’s “deepest condolences” to Luca’s family and thanked the Suffolk County police for their support.
Luca was on the force for more than 20 years and worked in the recruitment department.
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