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Life-Saving Efforts In East End Waterways Earn Public Service Awards

Five civilians receive recognition for helping rescue potential drowning victims over the past season.

Southampton Town Police issued (from L to R) Tom Miqueli, Susan McDonough and Capt. Lester Trafford Public Service Awards. Missing from the photo, but also awarded was Mark Omara and Walter Schutz. Credit: Matthew McGevna.
Southampton Town Police issued (from L to R) Tom Miqueli, Susan McDonough and Capt. Lester Trafford Public Service Awards. Missing from the photo, but also awarded was Mark Omara and Walter Schutz. Credit: Matthew McGevna.
The Town of Southampton Police issued Public Service Awards to five individuals they say did nothing short of save four lives on two separate occasions over the warm weather months.

The awards went to Captain Lester Trafford, of the Shinnecock/Moriches Sea Tow and Mark Omara, Tom Miqueli, Walter Schutz and Susan McDonough, private boaters who helped save the lives of three men in a capsized canoe in Tiana Bay in September. Earlier this year, in May, Captain Trafford plucked a man who was thrown overboard by rough seas in the Shinnecock Inlet.

In a small ceremony held this morning at the Town of Southampton Police Headquarters in Hampton Bays, Lieutenant Michael Zarro said he was one of the first to arrive at one of the calls and that for a certainty the victim would have drowned had civilian efforts not intervened.

On May 12, at around 2 p.m., Captain Trafford responded to a capsized fishing boat in the Shinnecock Inlet, which at the time was reporting 4-to-10-foot swells. Despite the danger to himself and his vessel, police said Trafford navigated through the swells and rescued one of the occupants of the vessel, later identified as 45-year-old Scott Finne, who had been thrown overboard. Finne made a full recovery. Sadly, his 85-year-old captain, Stian Stiansen, was killed.

Then, on Sep. 5 at around 8:30 a.m. Susan McDonough was near the Hampton Arms Resort on Tiana Bay when she noticed a canoe had capsized and three men were flailing in the water. McDonough said she immediately grabbed her kayak and began to row out to the men with a life jacket. When she got there she noticed one man was swimming to shore while the other was clinging to the capsized boat. The third man, however, was struggling to stay above water and growing weaker.

She tossed the life jacket to the drowning man and then flagged down Omara, Miqueli and Schutz who were fishing on the bay in a private vessel. The three men boarded the nearly unconscious man and got him to shore where he did eventually lose consciousness. Hampton Bays EMS and Southampton Town Police worked to revive the man while Southampton Bay Constable retrieved the other two men. All three men were sent to Southampton Hospital where they were treated and released.

“I just happened to be out here because school was out for Rosh Hashanah,” said McDonough, a Math teacher in the Farmingdale School District. “If I hadn’t happened to be out there that day he would have never made it.”

Omara and Schutz were unable to attend the ceremony. The Public Service Award recognizes a civilian’s “outstanding contribution to the Southampton Town Police Department and to the Town of Southampton,” the citation reads. “The dedication you have displayed reflects an unselfish devotion to the highest ideals of community service and a sincere interest in the betterment of this community.”

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