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Jonathan Pearlroth, Owner of Famous Double-Diamond Oceanfront House on Dune Road, Helps Rescue Fisherman

By Judi Desiderio, Sunday, October 25, 2009
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“On Thursday, October 22, I had one of the most adrenaline fueled and humbling days of my life.”
Jonathan Pearlroth

Lawyer, towboat captain rescue angler from frigid waters

October 23, 2009 By ANDREW STRICKLER

A Manhattan lawyer and a South Shore towboat captain pulled a onetime correction officer out of frigid waters after he had fallen overboard and drifted for an hour.

“I was thinking about my kids and not seeing them anymore,” said John Signer, 45, from the hospital Friday where he was being treated for severe hypothermia.

Signer, an avid angler from Holbrook and onetime city correction officer, was pulled Thursday from the drink, numb and disoriented, after falling overboard off Moriches Inlet.

Towboat captain Mark Grivas was fishing for stripers in the inlet and waiting for a tow call when his radio squawked: man in the water, and close by.

The alert reached attorney Jonathan Pearlroth, 49, about 2:30 p.m. as he pounded in a fence outside his Westhampton Beach home. “I heard a scream but I thought it was a bird until my neighbor said there was a guy way, way out there,” he said.

Signer was fishing alone about a mile offshore when he said he reached to untangle a fishing line from his propeller and went overboard. For an hour, he paddled and drifted.

“My left leg was totally numb, like one big cramp, and my right leg wasn’t far behind,” he said. A bay constable later said a private plane pilot spotted him and made the first emergency call, Signer said.

After grabbing a loose boat bumper, Pearlroth said he jumped into the water and was able to get through the breaking waves to reach Signer, whom he described as “blue, with pink spots.”

The pair clung to the makeshift flotation device for about 20 minutes before Grivas was able to secure his boat and get them on board. “The guy was shaking, he was blue, I thought he was going into cardiac arrest,” said Grivas, 54, who piloted the boat to a Coast Guard station in East Moriches.

At Brookhaven Memorial Medical Center in East Patchogue, where Signer was being treated for hypothermia, he said he’s not in the habit of wearing a lifejacket.

“It was my own fault for not wearing the jacket when I lean over the back of the boat. It was a bonehead move,” Signer said.