FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Three college students were rescued from the chilly waters of Long Island Sound after their rowboat was pushed off shore by strong winds and an outgoing tide on Monday afternoon, Fairfield firefighters said.
At 4:09 p.m. Monday, the Fairfield Emergency Communication Center received a 911 call from a Fairfield University student reporting that she and two other students were in distress.
The three young women did not have lifejackets onboard their row boat, and they were unable to paddle back to shore, Assistant Fire Chief Scott Bisson said in a statement. Gusty winds created rough seas the farther the students were pushed away from land, and they used the only safety device they had, a cellphone, to call for help, he said.
Initial reports indicated the boat was close to shore near the Fairfield channel by the lighthouse.
Fairfield fire and police units were dispatched to the area of South Benson Marina, and on duty fire personnel launched fire boat Marine 228 to search for the women, Bisson said.
The units could not see the missing boat from shore due to off-shore conditions and distance, he said. Telecommunicators maintained cellphone contact with the students and aided with the search by asking questions to identify landmarks to relay to rescuers, Bisson said.
When Fairfield units could not immediately locate the boat from shore, mutual aid was called in from the Bridgeport Police and Fire Departments to assist, Bisson said.
Marine 228 initiated a rapid search of the last reported area extending a mile-and-a-half off-shore from the Fairfield channel and spotted the rowboat, Bisson said.
Fire personnel assisted the students into the rescue vessel and secured their rowboat for return to shore shortly before 5 p.m., Bisson said.
The women were returned to Fairfield and evaluated by ambulance personnel, but all refused transport to a medical facility, he said.
“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 Bisson, who was the incident commander.
“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.”
One student was from Pennsylvania, and the other two were from New Jersey.
The Fairfield Police Department is continuing its investigation into the incident.
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