Manhattan Woman Found Dead After Falling Overboard Yacht Off Montauk Point


The body of a 40-year-old woman was found two miles south of Montauk Point on Sunday morning, 11 hours after her husband reported her missing from their boat, according to Suffolk County Police.

What was meant to be a pleasure cruise turned to tragedy when Ninive Petrocelli, a Manhattan business owner, went overboard from the 45-foot cruiser she and her husband, John, 54, were spending the night on. She was not wearing a life jacket. Despite a desperate search effort by the U.S. Coast Guard, East Hampton Town Police and commercial fishermen, her body was pulled from the water after a recreational boater located it at 11:30 a.m.

Lieutenant Jack Fitzpatrick, commander of the Suffolk County Police homicide squad, which had been called in investigate Ms. Petrocelli’s death, said on Monday that there was no indication of criminality found in the investigation so far.

“I had a conversation with family members that indicates they had a very happy marriage,” Lt. Fitzpatrick said. “I spoke with Mr. Petrocelli yesterday and he was appropriately upset.”

He said the couple, who have been married about four years, left the Montauk Yacht Club in their boat, In The Clutch, around sunset on Saturday and planned to spend the night on the ocean, anchored offshore if conditions were appropriate.

At the time, winds were at 10 knots, the seas were 3 feet and the water temperature was 71 degrees, according to Lt. Fitzpatrick.

“They were on the bow of the boat when the victim told her husband she was feeling cold and was going to go back to the cabin to get a sweater,” Lt. Fitzpatrick said, adding that police are not releasing information about what she was wearing that night. It was midnight when she vanished. “The husband realized she was taking an inordinate amount of time and went to look for her when he realized she was not on the boat. He threw some flotation devices into the water and called the Coast Guard, who were on scene within 12 minutes, and, with commercial fishing boats and pleasure boaters, the search was begun.”

The Coast Guard sent out a cutter from Station Montauk and helicopters from Station Cape Cod, and East Hampton Town Police aided in the search with police boats, according to Petty Officer Erik Swanson, a Coast Guard spokesman. They combed an area two miles north of Montauk Point and in both directions east and west. It was a “good Samaritan,” he said, who located Ms. Petrocelli’s body two miles south of Montauk Point. The Coast Guard transported the body to the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s Office to determine the cause of death.

Lt. Fitzpatrick said that he did not know whether alcohol played a role in her fall overboard, but authorities would be able to determine that when the autopsy results come in.

He stressed that the homicide squad investigates a lot of deaths. “Just because we’re involved doesn’t meant there’s criminality,” he said.

The couple ran an architectural glass wholesale business together out of their Upper West Side apartment, called Cristol Inc. Ms. Petrocelli became well-versed in art, design and business after obtaining degrees from Hunter College, Parsons School of Design, Santa Monica College and la Universidad Europa de Madrid, according to her LinkedIn profile online. Cristol Inc. was established in 2005, and recently had added a 5,000-square-foot showroom on Lexington Avenue in the New York Design Center to its name.

Ms. Petrocelli’s husband, John, owns his own construction company, John Petrocelli Construction based in Palisades Park, New Jersey.

According to Carl Darenberg, owner of the Montauk Marine Basin, the couple docked their cruiser there and came out to Montauk at least twice each summer.

“I didn’t know them very well, but they were a great couple,” he said. “It looked like they were madly in love.”

The tragedy comes just two weeks after the miraculous rescue of John Aldridge, a commercial fisherman who fell overboard and was rescued 12 hours later, uninjured save a bad sunburn, dehydration and hypothermia.

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