NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Six people – including four children – were rescued by police and a cruise company dock worker Tuesday afternoon when their boat capsized near Ellis Island.
Around 2:15 p.m., the 15-foot boat was out in New York Harbor when its bilge pump failed and it began taking on water, park police told CBS2.
The boat, which left from Newark, then overturned, leaving everyone who had been on board in the water, authorities said. The people on the boat included two men in their 40s — identified as boat owner Diogo Fernandes, fellow boater Antonio Rodrigues — and four children – 11-year-old twin sisters, a 9-year-old and a 5-year-old, police said. They were all wearing life jackets, CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported.
A 20-year-old Liberty Cruises dock worker on Ellis Island spotted the people in the water and jumped in.
“I just thought about her life, not mine,” said the worker, Kevin Suarez.
Suarez’s heartfelt words came as he described what he was seeing and thinking as he jumped into the water.
“I saw the guy jump in the back trying to fix the engine, and just the boat wasn’t working for him,” Suarez said.
He saved the girl who was beneath the boat.
“Got a hold of her life vest and pulled her out,” Suarez said.
NYPD and U.S. Park Police crews helped rescue the others, authorities said.
All six people from the boat were taken to Jersey City Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.
CBS2 caught up with the family outside the hospital.
“The boat (did) not work – I don’t know,” owner Fernandes said as he began to cry.
“The water got in the boat so fast and then got sink,” said rescued boater Rodrigues, of Newark. “Every kid got in the water.”
The twins, Ann Victoria and Sarah Rodrigues, said they were terrified.
“I was thinking if I was going to live,” Ann Victoria said.
Ann Victoria was wrapped in a white towel and still wearing hospital socks. Her twin sister was every bit as shaken.
“I will never go on the boat again,” Sarah said.
Antonio Rodrigues said the children remained calm and were crying after the accident, but would recover.
“I want to say thank you very much for saving my life,” Sarah said. “And they had a really big crew there, so they were like securing us really well. So they made me calm and safe.”
Rodrigues told CBS2’s Jessica Layton he was grateful for the group’s new guardian angel, and Suarez was also thankful to a higher power.
“I just thank that he gave me strength to help them out,” he said.
Gainer reported that conditions in the harbor were rough Tuesday — the current was fast, vessel traffic was heavy and it was windy.
“From our police reports, it was taking on water and the bilge pump was not working properly,” said Lt. Tony Lordo with U.S. Park Police. “So as it took on the water with the wind conditions that you see now, it capsized the small vessel.”
Officials did mention that if the incident would have happened in the middle of the Hudson, the outcome may have been very different.