Around 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Central Coventry Fire Lt. Mike DeCesare and neighbor Leo Roy were wrapping up a long day of fishing near Bonnet Shores when DeCesare heard the sound of air horns in the distance. Soon after, he heard yelling and spotted a boat with four men on it.
"I thought that it was just a bunch of guys drinking and playing with the air horns at first," said Roy. "But Mike was sure it looked like they were taking on water. By the time I turned around again to look, just a few minutes later, the rear end and motor of their boat had fallen right off. There was no way they could bail out and then they were in the water."
Roy went on to explain that a nearby catamaran had been attempting to reach the men but couldn't maneuver to get them. While attempting to reach the Coast Guard on his boat's radio, DeCesare hoisted anchor and he and Roy headed over to the group.
"There were four men, older men and one was disabled with very little use of his legs," said DeCesare. "They were in the water for less than 10 minutes when we got to them and started to pluck them out of the water."
"We were having radio problems trying to get ahold of the Coast Guard and we had three of the guys in the boat by the time we got through to them but then they got to us in about 15 minutes," explained Roy. "I don't think that anyone knew what happened, but my guess would be that it was an older boat and was just fatigued. They were right in the middle of the channel which is about 70 feet deep so it could have turned bad really quick."
"It was kind of an ironic day because we had been out there since nine o'clock and had just been getting ready to head back when we found one more green crab that we use for bait in the livewell so we decided to stay a little bit longer," Roy continued. "This time of year, especially with the storm coming, there aren't many boats out there. These guys have no idea how lucky they are that Mike was there. It was hectic and I'm sure they were in shock, but he was so calm and just jumped in there and did his job on his day off."
Roy explained that he and DeCesare met 12 years ago when he had a grand mal seizure at a neighbor's house and an off-duty DeCesare was the first to respond. Since then they have been good friends and regularly go fishing and hunting together.
"I'm a civilian and I was there to help but to watch someone like Mike DeCesare just get right in it like that is kind of amazing," Roy said. "He isn't one to take credit but he performed unbelievably. Some people have been giving the firefighters a hard time but Mike and the other guys haven't been paid in three weeks but will still jump right into action and perform when they need to. It just proves that we have a very good fire department."
A report from the Southeastern New England Coast Guard Unit confirmed that the four men were transported safely back to port and did not require any medical attention. It is believed that the 16-foot vessel sank after taking on water over its transom which then broke off, taking the motor with it.