This past Labor Day weekend, six people were involved in a boating crash resulting in the deaths of an Oakdale couple.
Louis DeRitis, 53, and his wife Renne DeRitis, 50, were on their way home from Kismet, Fire Island, on their 27-foot 1989 OC/MA when they crashed into a larger, 44-foot 1989 Henriques Sport Fisherman, who was headed southwest, at 10:40p.m. in the Great South Bay between North Channel and Range Channel.
At this same time, Bonnie Lumagui, a member of the Ocean Bay Park Fire Department, on Fire Island, was sitting on the back deck of her family home and heard the very loud crash of the boats.
Lamagui called 911, as did the captain of the Sport Fisherman to report the crash. Lamagui, however, was able to give the 911 dispatcher more descriptive and informative details about the accident.
“Her reaction was immediate,” says Fran Bodkin, Volunteer Firefighter at Ocean Bay Park Fire Department. “She could explain exactly what was happening because she is experienced, with thirty years in the fire department.”
She overheard a passenger of the boat exclaim that somebody had been ejected from the boat, which prompted the 911 dispatcher to patch Lumagui’s call to “FIRECOM”. FIRECOM is a fire department radio system to which all fire departments in Suffolk County are connected.
“This quick move by a 911 dispatcher meant the full rescue force of the South Shore Volunteer Fire Departments would be sent into action. Many of the South Shore Fire Departments have fire boats ready to cast off at a few minutes notice and they did,” says Bodkin.
Departments from Bay Shore, Bayport, Islip, East Islip, West Islip, Lindenhurst, and Ocean Bay Park all responded with fire boats and dive teams.
The OC/MA carrying the couple had capsized. Renee was found in the boat’s cabin and pronounced dead at the scene. Louis had been ejected from the boat upon impact. The four passengers on the Sport Fisherman were not injured in the collision.
Lamagui’s 911 call also triggered the Suffolk County Police Departments Helicopter Base at MacArthur Airport to dispatch a helicopter and crew to help at the crash site. Due to the late hours and darkness, the helicopter struggled to find the collision.
“When the accident happened, immediately I turned on Flightrader24,” recalled Bodkin. “I was watching the police helicopter circle around and it wasn’t where it should be because it was dark out and they were trying to find the accident scene.”
In order to help the helicopter crew find the collision, Chief Mike of Ocean Bay Park Fire Department coordinated with Lamagui and his fire department vehicles to produce as much light as possible in front of Lamagui’s house. The fire engines turned on all their lights so that the helicopter crew could line up the lights and fly perpendicular from the beach to the collision.
A search team worked to find Louis for about an hour in the darkness before the search was called off. He was found by Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau and the United States Coast Guard in the early morning hours the following day and pronounced dead near the crash scene, according to police.
The cause of the collision has yet to be determined, however is being investigated by the United States Coast Guard.
The Messenger sends condolences to the family and friends of Renee and Louis DeRitis. If you have any further information regarding this boating collision, detectives urge you to call 631-854-8352.