2006-06-16 / Front Page

Coast Guard Suspends Search For Fisherman

By Brian Magoolaghan

EMTs and a civilian scan Jamaica Bay Tuesday evening for a missing boater who is now presumed dead.

EMTs and a civilian scan Jamaica Bay Tuesday evening for a missing boater who is now presumed dead.

The search for a missing fishing boat passenger - presumed dead after the boat he was in capsized off Breezy Point - was suspended Wednesday, about 22 hours after he was last seen alive.

The active search was called off at 2:51 p.m. Wednesday, according the U.S. Coast Guard. The announcement came as a group of about a dozen family members and friends of the missing man remained in Breezy Point to continue a search from the shore, sources said.

The missing man, Jeremiah Swinton, a 36-year-old postal worker from Sleepy Hollow, reportedly could not swim and was not wearing a life jacket, although there were some onboard.

Dan Bender, a spokesperson, denied that the Coast Guard was anticipating a body recovery, saying, "That's not the case. It means active searching has stopped pending further information," Bender said. "It's always a difficult decision to suspend a search."

The announcement on the search for Swinton concluded with this message: "The Coast Guard urges all boaters to wear a life jacket while boating. Wearing a life jacket significantly increases the chances for survival during boating accidents."

The 22-foot boat that Swinton was fishing from belonged to Alfonso Rayo, 44, who took Swinton and two other passengers, Sean Schoenwandt, 33, and Anthony Cardona, 12, fishing at about 5 p.m. Tuesday. The boat, which Rayo kept at the Gateway Marina in Brooklyn, was drifting off Breezy Point - around Beach 222 Street - when it was hit by a swell and took on water. Rayo reportedly sounded the boat's horn before the boat went over, but didn't use his cell phone to call for help. The boat was not equipped with a radio, so an effective distress call was impossible.

All four on board fell into the water as the boat capsized. Rayo, Schoenwandt and Cardona managed to cling to the bow of the boat, which remained above water. Swinton disappeared under the surface and never came back up, they later told police.

The incident sparked an intense search for Swinton that included the Coast Guard, NYPD Harbor and Aviation, U.S Park Police Marine Unit and the FDNY. The other boat passengers were transferred from the civilian boat to a Park Police boat and then brought ashore. They underwent observation at Peninsula Hospital Center.

An answering machine message at Swinton's home - presumably recorded by his wife - said the family was "banding together" during this very "difficult time." A Wave reporter was unable to determine if his family was still searching for him, shortly before the paper went to press.

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