A group of 11 were rescued in Branford waters this evening after they became stranded when their boat broke down and crashed into the rocks of the Thimble Islands.
The group from the East Haven-New Haven area reportedly headed out southbound into the open waters on a new friend’s 23-foot Sea Ray around 5 p.m. today from Old Lyme’s Miami Beach.
When the boat, driven by John Hall entered the Thimble Islands, a passenger said the motor became flooded and stopped working. The powerless boat then crashed into the rocks near the south side of Outer Island leaving the large group stranded with only two life vests.
Omaida Nieves, a boat passenger who is a detective with the New Haven Police Department, was standing under the gazebo at Stony Creek dock at 9 p.m. after being rescued. She was still wearing her wet bathing suit.
“I am excited,” she said to be on dry land, “but I was nervous.”
Nieves explained that she and her group were visiting the beach in Old Lyme, which they traveled to by car today. They met Hall and decided to take a ride on his boat and boarded the vessel, which can hold about eight people, around 5 p.m. this evening.
Getting into the Thimble Islands area, Nieves said the boat motor stopped working and she knew the group was in trouble. “It was my first time in rough water and my experience with water is a swimming pool,” she said.
When the boat careened into some rocks, a few passengers stayed aboard the vessel and Nieves and friend, Iris Vargas of East Haven, put on the only life vests. No one was seriously injured though several people sustained bruises and scrapes from the rocks.
About seven people began swimming to nearby Outer Island and that’s when Marine 5 of arrived at the scene to rescue the group.
Capt. Stephen Palumbo of Marine 5 said the rescue went smoothly despite the choppy waters from an above-normal high tide. The wind was working in the victims' favor, he said, pushing them onto the rocks where they could wait for rescue.
“Probably between Marine 2 and Marine 5, we’ve done 12 rescues a year but this one has a great ending,” commented Palumbo.
He added some advice for boaters: “Stay out of the Thimbles; there’s rocks here.”
Hall’s boat was being towed just after 9 p.m. this evening and would be salvaged, according to authorities. The Coast Guard may investigate the incident, Palumbo said.
Waiting for rides home, the group was in good spirits. Nieves said she would go back out on a boat and is not mad about the incident, but added, “I have complete respect for mother nature.”