The Fire Island Ferries received a Public Service Award on Aug. 25 from the U.S. Coast Guard for their crew’s heroic efforts after saving six passengers from a sinking boat.
On July 26, Fire Island Ferries Capt. Luke Kaufman and crew members Anthony Celano and Kayla Brabender were aboard the Fireball leaving Bay Shore for a 5:50 p.m. trip across the Great South Bay. That’s when they noticed a vessel sitting low in the water and its passengers trying to flag the ferry down.
As they got closer, the boat capsized — sending the six passengers onboard into the bay.
Kaufman, Celano, and Brabender sprang into action to aid the distressed boaters.
“I didn’t even have to ask my crew, it was outstanding, they were already on top of it going to grab the boarding ladder,” Kaufman said.
In a span of just 15 minutes, the ferry personnel responded to the emergency and the passengers were safely returned to shore by the U.S. Coast Guard.
“The entire crew communicated flawlessly, worked in unison, to make this amazing rescue and pull these people out of danger,” said Capt. Eva Van Camp, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound.
Kaufman said training for this type of situation is incredibly important when becoming a crew member for Fire Island Ferries.
Brabender had just completed her training just two days prior to the rescue.
“We train for this all the time,” Kaufman said. “I am glad that we could have been there at that particular moment because I think had we not come upon that scene when we did, there probably would have been a different outcome.”
In his 40 years working for the ferry terminal, Kaufman said this is his fourth rescue.
Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter praised the ferry company for their heroism and thanked the crew for continuing to keep those traveling across the Great South Bay safe.
“One of the most special parts of our incredible town is Fire Island and our Fire Island ferries,” Carpenter said. “Families make cherished memories traveling to Fire Island each summer, and we are grateful to their crews for keeping ferry passengers and all those enjoying the water safely.
To Dave Anderson and his incredible team, we thank you for what you do each and every day.”
View the full award ceremony in the video below.
Top: The Fire Island Ferries’ Fireball crew receives the award, provided by the Town of Islip.