July 05, 2006

Near Drowning, Boat Rescue Spotlight Need for Safety

A Bronx child visiting Cutchogue was left clinging to life after a near drowning incident that turned a festive holiday weekend into tragedy.

Southold Town Police responded to call regarding a possible drowning at the Santorini Hotel, located on the Long Island Sound on Duck Pond Road in Cutchogue, at 12:39 p.m. on Sunday.

According to a report by STPD, upon arriving at the scene, officers found nine year-old Evangjelia Koco, who had been pulled from the pool by guests who initiated lifesaving measures.

Tommy Demetriades, general manager of the hotel, said that the child was "apparently a good swimmer," whose parents were not at the poolside at the time of the incident.

There was no lifeguard on duty, but Demetriades said a lifeguard is not required by Suffolk County. There were, however, two hotel staff members certified in CPR on the premises; only one is required by Suffolk County. After guests initiated CPR, Jimmy Demetriades, another member of the Santorini staff, continued CPR efforts until Cutchogue Fire Department members arrived on the scene and transported the child to Eastern Long Hospital.

After arrival at ELIH, Koco was airlifted by Suffolk County Police Medivac helicopter to Stony Brook University Hospital.

As this publication went to press, Koco was still in the hospital's pediatric intensive care unit; her condition was not released. According to Tommy Demetriades, as of Sunday night, Koco was "doing better," exhibiting reflex ability and "squeezing her mother's hand."

Demetriades said that although "we try to keep things safe," at the hotel "her family must have thought she was a "strong enough swimmer to swim on her own."

Vigilance is key when children are engaged in water sports, said officials. In another unrelated incident last weekend, STPD reported that police marine units responded to a report of a 15-foot Boston Whaler that overturned in the Peconic Bay in New Suffolk on Sunday.

Rescued from the scene were seven children, the oldest of whom was 14, according to Southold Town Police Captain Martin Flatley. The children were rescued by an anonymous good Samaritan who happened upon the near tragedy and transported them out of the rough waters and onto shore. Flatley said that although the winds were picking up and the conditions were not good, because it was the 4th of July weekend, there were other boaters in the area, one of whom was the children's hero.

Both incidents, said Flatley, highlight the need for safety. "Make sure your children are supervised," he said. And, if children are planning to be out on the water alone, Flatley said parents should make sure their children have taken classes and become certified in boating safety, so they are well-equipped to operate a vessel and handle any crises that may arise.

At the Santorini, staff and guest alike were hoping for a happy ending. "Our prayers are with the family. We hope she will make a full recovery," said Demetriades.

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