Captain Dies, Three Rescued After Tugboat Sinks Off Fire Island – Update

The 62-foot, twin screw MV Sea Bear. Photo courtesy Wittich Bros. Marine, Inc.
The 62-foot, twin screw MV Sea Bear. Photo courtesy Wittich Bros. Marine, Inc.

One person has died and three others were rescued Saturday after their tug sank in the Atlantic Ocean one mile from Fire Island National Park, New York, the Coast Guard has confirmed.

At about 2:15 p.m. ET Saturday, watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound Command Center received notification from the Vessel Traffic Service in New York of the sinking of the Sea Bear, a 62-foot, 1000 horsepower tug with four people aboard, prompting an urgent marine information broadcast (UMIB) and the launch of a boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Fire Island.

The boatcrew arrived on scene at approximately 2:45 p.m. to discover a debris field and three men huddled together in immersion suits. A fourth man from the tug was later found unresponsive by a good Samaritan vessel.

All four crewmen were transported to an awaiting emergency crew on shore, where the three survivors were diagnosed with hypothermia. The fourth man was later pronounced deceased.

Suffolk County Police Department identified the deceased as the on-duty captain, Donald Maloney. Maloney was found in the water by the tugboat “Willie Lander”, separated from the three surviving crewmembers, the Police Department said. He was not wearing an immersion suit, Department said.

The survivors were identified by the SCPD as Lars Vetland, 43, of Staten Island, Jason Reimer, 38, of Leonardo New Jersey, and Rainer Bendixen, 22 of Bay Head, New Jersey, who were taken to the Fire Island Coast Guard Station.

The tugboat was working in Moriches, New York on a dredging project and was traveling back to its base in Bayonne New Jersey when the accident occurred. Wittich Brothers Marine, Inc. owns the boat.

Water temperature at the time was reported to be about 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Our deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of the deceased,” said Capt. Edward Cubanski, commander Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound. “I also applaud our dedicated and professional search and rescue crews, our port partners, local EMS, and police who responded on scene and ashore.”

Suffolk County Police Department is investigating the cause of the incident.