The call came in at 2:28 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.
"There's been a boat accident on Greenwich Point," a dispatcher crackled. The situation required multiple emergency medical units, fast.
Drew Marzullo, a 23-year veteran paramedic with the Greenwich Emergency Medical Service, was nearly 9 miles away at their King Street station.
Something about the call unsettled him.
"I've been doing this long enough to know that when a 911 call is placed, it might sound bad, but it is actually alright," he said.
This was not one of those times
"Maybe it was the tone of the dispatcher's voice, it just didn't sound good," said Marzullo, who is also a Greenwich selectman.
He jumped into his ambulance and sped toward Tod's Point.
Miles away, at GEMS' Riverside headquarters, Joe Soto, director of operations for GEMS, got the same call. He and a fellow supervisor rushed to the point in an SUV. The destination they were told was the Old Greenwich Yacht Club, and they were there within 6 minutes, the first emergency medical personnel on the scene.
It was immediately apparent this would not be a routine call. Miring the pristine summer sky and calm seas were the dark uniform of a police officer, standing grimly by a boat off the yacht club's dock. Two of the boat's passengers -- teenage girls ages 15 and 16 -- had been escorted away, into the clubhouse.
But there had been four passengers. The other two, also 15 and 16, remained in the vessel, hidden from sight from the club entrance.
What had happened just moments before would soon become painfully clear: The four girls, friends from Greenwich High School, had set out that morning on a powerboat belonging to one's father to enjoy the summer sun and go tubing. The 21-foot Wahoo's 200-horsepower outboard engine was ideal for giving them the speed they needed to skim atop the waters of Long Island Sound like they were flying.
A mile or two from Greenwich Point, sometime between 2 and 2:30 p.m., Emily Fedorko, a 16-year-old gymnast and honor student, and a friend were doing just that, gliding behind the boat on a tethered yellow tube.
Suddenly, as often happens, the two tubers were bucked from their perch and into the deep water. The girl driving the boat, 16 and certified to pilot the vessel, turned to pick them up -- and a day of otherwise unmemorable summer fun turned instantly, incomprehensibly tragic. The boat collided with the two girls in the water, sending them into the propeller. Read Full Article
Emily suffered severe lacerations to her torso; her companion was badly cut on her left lower leg.
The horrified pair on the boat overcame their shock, hoisted their friends out of the water, and sped feverishly to the yacht club dock.
By the time Soto and his GEMS partner arrived, minutes after the girls had docked, a Greenwich police officer was attending to the girl with the leg wound inside the boat. Another officer remained on the dock. It was already apparent there was nothing that could be done for Emily.
"We did our assessment and we determined that her injuries couldn't sustain life," said Soto. "She was essentially dead on arrival."
The scene inside the boat was horrific, said Soto. But his job, and that of his colleagues streaming into Greenwich Point behind him, was to remain calm amid the absolute worst of circumstances. There was still a life to save.
"We felt terrible for the victim and her family," Soto said. "But we're in the mode of getting the job done, treating patients and making sure they're OK."
In the minutes that followed, the GEMS personnel on sight performed emergency triage on the wounded girl until the first ambulance arrived. She was lifted onto a stretcher and taken to Stamford Hospital on Advanced Life Support. The wound required extensive stitching, but she was recovering well by Thursday afternoon, Greenwich police reported.
Marzullo, having sped from the opposite corner of town, arrived third. He realized immediately his gut feeling upon receiving the call had been right.
"The fact that these were children takes it to a different level," he said. "We're not immune to emotion, no matter how long you've been doing this. I couldn't stop thinking about the girl and her family and still can't."
With their emergency duties tended to, Marzullo and other GEMS personnel turned their attention to the two girls inside the clubhouse.
"They may not have been physically injured, but this is still a tragic event they were dealing with," Soto said. "We do a normal evaluation, making sure all their vital signs are in order and provide emotional support for them. And then we get them off the scene."
A short time later, the girls were taken to Greenwich Hospital for further evaluation. The entire medical response lasted less than 30 minutes.
Even so, Soto and a supervisor remained behind on Greenwich Point. Many others -- police officers, club staff, bystanders -- had been shaken by what they had witnessed.
By 4 p.m., the last GEMS personnel had left the scene.
"Afterwards, that's when we deal with it personally," Soto said.
Paul Schott contributed to this story.