Three Long Island volunteer firefighters who thought they saw some stand-up paddle boarders taking a rest were glad they took a closer look.
The Contreras family had spent a couple of hours on Great South Bay off Bay Shore when their boat started to quickly take on water.
Juan Contreras, 33, of Bellport, was operating the 18-foot Stingray when the engine stalled about 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Suffolk police told Newsday.
Suddenly Contreras, his two young daughters, his mother and sister were in the water and clinging to the partially submerged boat, waving their arms and shouting to a nearby vessel.
"We yelled, 'Help! Help!' " Juan's sister, Guadalupe Contreras, 47, of Bay Shore, said Monday as she recalled the drama, noting that all five family members wore life jackets.
Jason Deak, 21; his brother, Justin Deak, 18; and their friend Mike LaDuca, 23 — all volunteer firefighters at the West Islip Fire Department — were off-duty and returning home with William Deak, 47, the Deaks' father, on their 21-foot Wellcraft from a day of tubing when they thought they saw something odd — a paddle boarder or maybe a lobster pot.
Justin Deak backed the boat up to the Contreras family and his father stood by to pull them aboard. Jason Deak, a member of the department's dive team, and LaDuca put on life vests and jumped into the water. First rescued was the youngest of the Contreras clan, Juan's daughter Angeline, 7.
"She couldn't swim; she was just floating away," said Jason Deak, a criminal justice major at Suffolk County Community College and an NYPD hopeful. "She was just holding her sandals, floating away. I pulled her onto my back and I told her to hold my neck . . . and then I said, 'Don't let go.' “
Justin Deak, an incoming freshman at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate Troy, N.Y., said the rescue was "kind of like instinct; as soon as we get under pressure, we just remember our training.”
The Contreras family, meanwhile, said they're not afraid to go out on the water again. And they're thankful, as Guadalupe Contreras put it: "It's good to have people like this in the country — people that like to help other people."