College students rescued from boat

Cell phone call leads firefighters to girls adrift on Sound

A 911 call from a rowboat on the Long Island Sound led rescuers to three college students in distress off Fairfield Monday afternoon.

Around 4:10 dispatchers received call reporting that three women were in a boat being pushed away from shore by strong winds and the outgoing tide, according to the Fairfield Fire Department. The three women on the boat did not have lifejackets and were unable to paddle back to shore.

Initial reports indicated the vessel was close to shore near the Fairfield channel by the lighthouse. Fairfield Fire and Police units headed to the area of South Benson Marina, and on-duty fire personnel launched fire boat Marine 228 to search for the vessel. First arriving units could not see the missing boat from shore due to offshore conditions and distance. Dispatchers maintained cell phone contact with the girls, and greatly aided with the search by asking specific questions to help identify landmarks to relay to rescuers. Once Fairfield units arrived and did not immediately locate the boat in distress from shore, the Bridgeport Police and Fire departments were called to assist with the search.

Based on the landmarks the girls identified, wind and current, the Fairfield fire boat initiated a rapid search of the last reported area extending about a mile and a half off shore from the Fairfield channel. Firefighters aboard the boat then spotted a small boat, and the women identified that as the boat they were on.

The women were helped onto the fire boat, and the rowboat was towed back to shore.

After being evaluated by emergency medical crews on shore in Fairfield, all three women refused transport to a medical facility.

“The three girls were extremely lucky that they called for assistance when they did, and that crews were able to locate them given the windy conditions and outgoing tide that pushed them offshore,” said Incident Commander Scott Bisson. “This should serve as a reminder to everyone that conditions on Long Island Sound can change very rapidly, and they should always have personal floatation devices on board their vessels in the event of an emergency.”

The rescued women have been identified as Emily McCauley of Pennsylvania, and Hayley Wilson and Holly Ream, both of New Jersey.

Fairfield Police are investigating the incident.

On April 27, Fairfield Fire and Police marine units participated together in a Port Security Group training exercise titled Operation Vigilant Response II. The exercise was designed to have local marine units from the region work together in a coordinated search and rescue mission for a missing boater. The drill included participants from fire, police, and Coast Guard responders from Sectors New Haven and Eaton’s Neck areas of response. This training was key to the success of this rescue based on the local knowledge of emergency responders as well as enhancing the coordination between different agencies and municipalities working together.

The Fairfield Fire Department boat arrives at South Benson Marina having rescued three college students and towed back the rowboat on which they were adrift on Long Island Sound. — Fairfield Fire Department Photo

The Fairfield Fire Department boat arrives at South Benson Marina having rescued three college students and towed back the rowboat on which they were adrift on Long Island Sound. — Fairfield Fire Department Photo

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