Plucked From The Harbor: New Year’s Day Water Rescue
By Kitty Merrill


King Neptune’s trident didn’t take. An 82-year-old Manhattan man was clinging to life Monday after the car he was riding in plunged into the frigid waters of Three Mile Harbor on Sunday night.

According to East Hampton Town Police Chief Todd Sarris, at around 7:38 p.m., a 1998 Honda Accord operated by a Mineola man drove off the launching ramp into the harbor. The driver, 60, told police the car’s accelerator stuck.

“He said he tried to pull up on the accelerator and engage the emergency brake,” Sarris related. But the frantic efforts were in vain.

Sarris said a witness saw the Accord head into the water. The witness “indicated the car was traveling fast, but he really had no way of gauging the speed,” Sarris said.

The operator was able to get out of the car and swim to safety. The vehicle floated for a distance before it submerged about 100 feet from the road’s end. Sarris reported that the motorists said he was doing about 30 mph. He was treated at the hospital for exposure and released.

As the vehicle began to sink, witnesses on shore hopped on a floating dock and made their way to the car, attempting to use a grappling hook to rescue the passenger. The car rolled over on its side, then righted itself as it submerged. Dive team members from the East Hampton Town Police Department, the Sag Harbor Fire Department and the Montauk Fire Department extricated the passenger, who was still listed in critical condition on Monday. East Hampton Volunteer rescue swimmers, as well as local fire and ambulance personnel assisted with the rescue.

The car has been impounded for safety checks and no charges have been filed against the driver.