Fisherman drowns after being pulled overboard off Montauk

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By Michael Wright

A recreational fisherman was killed on Sunday morning after he fell off his boat near Montauk Point and drowned.

Marty L. McMillan, 51, of Wantagh was fishing with his son and two friends on his 30-foot boat, Xiao Mu Ji, when his leg became entangled in the boat’s anchor line and he was dragged overboard and underwater, the U.S. Coast Guard and East Hampton Town Police said.

According to accounts given to police after the incident by the other men aboard Mr. McMillan’s boat, including Mr. McMillan’s 17-year old son, Cody, the group had been fishing for blackfish 11 miles northeast of Montauk Point and had been anchored in an area of Block Island Sound known as the Southwest Ledge when the accident happened.

Police said the other men aboard told them the boat’s anchor rode had apparently become entangled in a lobster pot’s tether line while Mr. McMillan was attempting to pull the anchor in order to move to a different fishing spot. While he was untangling the two lines, the anchor line suddenly came tight as the tide pulled the boat against the still grounded anchor. Mr. McMillan was unable to get his legs clear of the tangle of lines as it came taut and was pulled overboard. He was not wearing a life-preserver.

The other men tried numerous times to pull the struggling fisherman from the water, but Mr. McMillan was repeatedly pulled him under the surface before they could grab him. The anchor line then became entangled in the boat’s propeller, Coast Guard officials said, and disabled the boat so the other men could not relieve pressure from the anchor line.

A Coast Guard spokesman, seaman Darryl Lanki, said that a distress call went out from the Xiao Mu Ji about 9:30 a.m. sent out to other boaters Mr. McMillan was pulled from the water by Captain John DeMaio, a charter captain who had been fishing nearby. Mr. McMillan was unconscious when he was pulled on board Capt. DeMaio’s boat, Vivienne. The fishermen administered CPR but felt no pulse. A Coast Guard boat from Montauk arrived at the scene but the decision was made to keep Mr. McMillan aboard the Vivienne for the half-hour ride back to Montauk. He was pronounced dead at Southampton Hospital a short time later. Another Coast Guard boat from Pt. Judith, Rhode Island, towed the Xaio Mu Ji to the Coast Guard station in Montauk.

Capt. DeMaio said the Xiao Mu Ji’s anchor line was wrapped tightly around Mr. McMillan’s ankle and that there was a rope-burn on his neck.

“In a situation like that you don’t have much time,” Capt. DeMaio, who has been a Montauk charter boat captain for 36 years, said. “When he went over somebody would have had to jump over with him with a knife to cut him free. Then with the line in the wheel they couldn’t run uptide to get enough slack in the line. One thing compounded another.”

He said the tension on the line was very strong because the currents in Block Island Sound are very strong. He noted that the anchor line was of a heavier gauge than most boats that size would use, which increases the drag of the tide on the rode.

“It’s a bad place for anchoring, it’s viscious there,” Capt. DeMaio said, noting that they only became aware of the emergency aboard the Xiao Mu Ji when they saw the flare fired by Cody McMillan. “I was only a football field away but even in the best scenario I don’t think we would have gotten him up in time.”

Mr. McMillan lived in Nassau County but had been fishing in Montauk most of his life. He berthed his boat, a 30-foot aluminum sportfish he helped design himself, at Westlake Fishing Lodge in Montauk. The marina’s owner, Ed Miller, said the mood was solemn at the marina on Sunday as word of the accident spread. Many of the marina’s boaters had heard the panicked call for help of Mr. McMillan’s son on the marine VHF radios on their own boats.

“It’s just a tragedy,” Mr. Miller said. “He loved fishing with his son. They were very good fishermen. They went together all the time and … were very adventurous.”

The other two men on the boat, identified by police as David Bargeron of Pennsylvania and Demitrius Touloupakis of Massachusetts, had been invited fishing by Mr. McMillan and his son through an internet forum website dedicated to fishing discussions and had only met personally that day for the first time.

Mr. McMillan was a Missouri native who moved to the East Coast in the 1970s. He owned Intelli-Tec Security Services, a security alarm business in Westbury. The firm’s website says that it is the 56th largest private security company in the country.

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