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Woman Rescued from Sinking Boat Grateful for Quick Response

Boat lifted out of water after oil cleanup, marine contractor says.

The woman whose houseboat sunk in Three Mile Harbor after the blizzard last week says she is thankful to the rescuers who saved her life, as well as to those who responded for the cleanup.

In a message to Patch on Monday, Eileen Hickey-Hulme recalled how she awoke to the sound of the boat taking on water at about 4 a.m. Though it was tied to the dock at Gardiner's Marina in Springs, the weight of the water and snow caused it to tip away from the dock, making it difficult to easily get off, especially in the dark of night.

In fact, a friend who was on the boat with her fell into the water as he attempted to make the leap. He was able to pull himself up out of the frigid waters, and he ran to the road and flagged down Police Officer Denis Shea to help Hickey-Hulme, who was standing helpless on the deck of the boat.

"The men and women of the volunteer Springs fire and EMT departments were there within three minutes of the call. They knew what to do and were utterly compassionate and professional," she said. "I never would have gotten off my little ferry boat . . . without their commitment and bravery."

Hickey-Hulme, an artist who also lives in New York City, said she has been visiting East Hampton, staying on her mostly classic wooden boats, for 25 years.

Her boat that sank hadn't even run in three years. She said it had a total of two gallons of gas on it, and no toilet.

When the boat sank, there was some cause for environmental concern.

"The crews from Keith Grimes, who were on the scene in three hours to guarantee the pristine quality of the water along with Miller Environmentalists, who worked at the scene from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., were extraordinary," she said. "They then continued from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. the next day to haul the boat and work with Marine Patrol to make sure [sic] the scene was as pristine as it always has been."

She said she considers "myself privileged to contribute to the preservation of our jewel of East Hampton," adding that it is everyone's "responsibility to preserve our glorious heritage of Three Mile Harbor, Gardiner's Bay and all their creeks and estuaries."

Reached at his Sagaponack office on Tuesday, Keith Grimes said the task of lifting the boat out of the water and the clean-up went exactly as his plan. He said he was not aware of any violations.

He said his son Dave Grimes managed the job, which included bringing in a containment boom to prevent the "little bit of oil" that spilled when the boat sunk.

A diver placed pumps around the boat to lift it up, and after Miller Environmental brought in vacuum and mats to absorb the oil, it was hauled to Three Mile Harbor boatyard on Tuesday.

While there was a small amount of gasoline, which the boat owner mentioned, the oil is more of a concern environmentally, Grimes said. "The containment boom goes around the boat, around the oil spill, that way oil's not leaving, we have control over it," he said.

Grimes notified the Coast Guard, Marine Patrol, and the Department of Environmental Conservation, which monitors the containment.

Asked what the costs are for such an effort, Grimes said, it usually costs about $200 per foot to recover a sunken boat. "It's reasonable expensive on the recovery side, but it's handled the same way you would with a car."

In the end, it still was not clear exactly why the boat took on water.

"Nobody was really sure why it sunk," Grimes said. "I couldn't see any apparent leaks when we lifted it up. I have some [suspicions], but they're just that — I think the combinations of wind and ice and the rising tide, hitched the boat against the bulkhead, and maybe the water went in through a vent in the hull, but I have no proof of that."

Correction: The man who fell into the water did not flag down a police officer, as originally reported. Police and rescuers were notified through a call to 911. 

Sharon Marie Buckler February 20, 2013 at 03:30 PM
Taylor, Eileen could have lost her life. Can you please filter out that comment above from Jimbo.
Taylor K. Vecsey (Editor) February 20, 2013 at 05:45 PM
I agree, Sharon. The comment was deleted.
T.J. Clemente February 20, 2013 at 05:48 PM
I have known Eileen for the last 10 years, as we both enjoyed/enjoy local karaoke. She is an outstanding lady, whose grace, charm and spirit are appreciated by all who know and meet her. She is one of those rare women who knows what to say and how to say it, with a twinkle in her eye and sincerity. A woman who always showed wisdom, class, and a Hampton's spirit. I hope she is all right and nothing too valuable was lost in the unfortunate episode. Thank you to the EH Fire Department (Mr. Shea) and the Grimes family for helping Eileen.
Sharon Marie Buckler February 21, 2013 at 02:58 PM
Well said TJ!

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