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Father, son rescue two after canoe capsizes

Icy East River puts boaters in hospital

By Jay Rey
Updated: 04/13/08 7:08 AM

Emergency workers Saturday help ashore two men whose canoe capsized in the Niagara River off Grand Island and who were saved by a father and son in a borrowed rowboat.

The quick actions of a father and son are credited with saving two men whose canoe capsized Saturday in the frigid East River off Grand Island.

Brian E. Mahoney, 34, of Buffalo, and Charles L. Faraci, 36, of Lockport, were being treated for hypothermia in Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center after being in the river for almost a half hour.

Mahoney was listed in serious condition in the intensive-care unit late Saturday, a hospital official said. Faraci also was in the intensive-care unit, but his condition was unavailable.

Barry and Cory Arbogast of East River Road saved their lives.

“That man and his son saved our lives,” Mahoney told Erie County sheriff’s deputies in the hospital. “We never would have made it.”

Officials tell what happened: Mahoney and Faraci had launched their canoe Saturday morning from Beaver Island State Park. The two were about a mile from Beaver Island, and 300 feet from shore, when, just before noon, a wave and wind gust capsized the canoe. Both were thrown into the river, which still has floating ice and the temperature measures about 32 degrees.

Barry Arbogast, 50, and his son, Cory, 18, meanwhile, were in the dining room of their home, which overlooks the river, when the family noticed the canoeists.

“We were having breakfast, and my wife noticed a couple people floating by in a canoe, which is very odd at this time of year,” Barry Arbogast said, reached at his home later. “As the rest of us were going to check it out, the canoe capsized.”

While the family called 911, the father and son ran shoeless outside in search of a boat to help the canoeists.

They estimated they ran about half a mile along the shoreline — through residential yards and over backyard hedges — before they chanced across a man with a rowboat.

“I need your boat,” Barry Arbogast said he told the man, “and I need you to help me carry it out to the end of the dock.”

It took only about five to seven minutes before the Arbogasts reached the canoeists.

Mahoney was wearing a wet suit and life preserver, while Faraci was clinging to a preserver, authorities said.

Although the Arbogasts were unable to pull the men into the small boat, Mahoney and Faraci hung onto the sides as Barry rowed back to shore.

“One of the gentlemen was in really bad shape,” he said. “Cory had to lean over the boat and keep his head out of the water.”

By this time, Grand Island firefighters and sheriff’s officials arrived.

As the boat neared shore, Firefighters Chuck Berlinger and Gary Roesch, and sheriff’s deputies Warren Luick and Terry Guenot waded into the water to retrieve the canoeists and begin treatment for hypothermia, said Ray Pauley, public information officer for the Grand Island Fire Company.

“If [the Arbogasts] were not there we don’t know how long [Mahoney and Faraci] would have lasted,” Pauley said. “They were instrumental in saving their lives, there’s no question about that in my mind.”

The Arbogasts moved into their East River Road home in December. Cory is a student at Erie Community College, while Barry is an operations manager for Siemens Building Technologies in Amherst.

Barry said he knew the two men were in bad shape, and he and his son were just doing the best they could to get them out of the water.

“I still got the jitters,” he said Saturday evening, after the ordeal. “I’m suffering from an overdose of adrenaline.”