NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — A drowning on Sept. 10 and a near fatal accident a week later off Hazard Rock has prompted Narragansett to take steps to prevent future tragedies at the popular fishing spot.
The Town Council on Monday voted unanimously to purchase six U.S. Coast Guard life rings, at a total cost of $2,890. The rings will be placed at several spots in town in order to provide quick assistance for emergency water rescues.
The fire department recommended placing the rings at the mouth of Narrow River, the town beach, Hazard Avenue, Newton Avenue and Bass Rock Road.
The Quick Safety Stations will include a storage cabinet with easy access door, a loop to hold the 30-inch life ring and 60-foot water rescue rope.
Plans for additional safety equipment had been in the works for some time, but two incidents within a week at Hazard Rock underscored the urgency of adding more life-saving measures.
A man was rescued from the water off Hazard Rock in Narragansett on Saturday morning. Fire crews responded to Hazard Avenue around 9:30 a.m. for a report of one to two people in the water.
Firefighters on a rescue jet ski quickly located the victim in the water, according to authorities. He was taken to waiting EMS crews at Monahan’s Dock and then transported to South County Hospital.
Just a week earlier, on Sept. 10, a West Greenwich man died after being swept off of Hazard Rock.
Narragansett Fire Chief Scott Partington said the man was fishing from the rocks when he slipped and fell into the water. Police identified the man as 50-year-old Emidio DiMartino. DiMartino was brought to shore and CPR was performed, but he died at the hospital.
Wakefield resident Ted Sorlien was near Hazard Rock when the drowning took place. Sorlien, 56, grew up surfing locally and has surf traveled globally for 51 years. He spent 10 years as a commercial fisherman.
“I’ve spent most of my life in or on the ocean, I have great respect for the ocean and safety awareness for the power of the sea,” he said.
He called the town’s approval of more safety devices long overdue, and asked to become involved in ways to work with the town on improving water safety.
“I’d be available any time to sit with anybody to talk about it,” he said.
Sorlien went to DiMartino’s wake and funeral, and met his family, including a young son and daughter.
“They are really devastated,” he said. “And then eight days later, we come up on another incident and luckily one guy survived and the other is struggling to hang onto life.”
Charles Donadio, a longtime fellow surfer, said it’s imperative that the town install the life rings. Donadio witnessed the drowning on Sept. 10.
“I know the fire department has a new jet ski, but these guys should be training. I think the reaction could have been quicker, maybe there was traffic, maybe they didn’t do it that many times. But I live my life on the water and we practice drills – you can’t get complacent.”
He suggested the fire department could do time trials to see how quick a jet ski could respond to the rocks. It also could keep the jet ski at a more convenient location to avoid having to navigate summer traffic with it, he said.
“They did a good job, unfortunately I think it was probably a little too late because ( DiMartino) was probably in the water for a while,” he said.
Also Monday, the council voted unanimously to advertise nationally for potential developers or investors who might be interested in re-developing the former Lighthouse Inn property in Galilee. The town’s advertisement would run in the New York Times, Boston Globe and Washington Post, among other publications.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, so we really need to get what should be there,” Council member Ewa Dzwierzynski said.
The state, which owns the vacant and blighted property, is in talks with developer PRI X, the current lessee, about the site’s future. Town officials and residents oppose plans by PRI X to develop a large parking lot and some small retail shops on the parcel.
The council also directed Town Manager James Tierney to begin talks with the state over the feasibility of the town acquiring or getting control of the Lighthouse Inn property.