YAPHANK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – There was an emotional reunion Monday between police and the man they plucked from frigid waters off Long Island.
The rescued boater has little doubt he’s alive today because police went above and beyond the call of duty.
On Monday, that Long Island man got to thank the rescuers who found his boat and saved his life.
Web Extra: Babylon Man Thanks Rescuers
How do you thank someone for saving your life?
Greg Antolini did it with hugs for the Suffolk Police team who came to his rescue. It was a great save in November, by air and sea.
“I can’t thank you guys enough. I don’t even know what words to use,” Antolini said.
Antolini, an avid fisherman and father of four from Babylon, admits he misjudged rough seas and had to jump ship when his small boat capsized. He found himself in 10 foot waves, clinging to a life vest, in Fire Island Inlet.
“I just kept saying over and over again, oh my God, I’m going to drown in in Fire Island inlet. Land’s right there, been there 1,000 times, how could that happen,” Antolini said.
After an hour and a half in 57 degree water, he was running out of time, and hope, reported CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff.
“I was done. It was over,” he said. “No one is ever going to find me, a little head bobbing in the waves.”
But luck was with him, and so were police. Officer Eric Johnson happened to be at the beach, scanning the horizon for a missing buoy.
“As I looked closer, I could see it was the outline of a boat,” said Johnson. “I said ‘Oh no, this is a situation.'”
Johnson summoned help, and responding police overhead located him while a small marine boat set off in harrowing seas.
“I really did not know if I could make it out in the inlet,” said Sgt. John Vahey of the Suffolk Police Marine Bureau. “The Coast Guard was unable to respond, and our second boat had engine problems. So I look ed and the lieutenant and said ‘OK, we are it.'”
By the time they pulled him to safety, Antolini had less than half an hour left.
“I’m not here without them, and I know police everywhere get a lot of grief. This is something that should be recognized,” Antolini said. “They came out on a day when they shouldn’t have, they were someplace they didn’t need to be. They went over and above, and my four kids get to see me every day cause of it. I just can’t thank them enough.
Antolini says he will not give up boating, but he will never be all alone out there again. He’ll carry a cell phone in a waterproof pouch so that his police heroes are a 911 call away.
Antolini later learned the boat he was on can’t sink. He would have been safer staying on the capsized boat than jumping into the churning inlet.