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Aug 10, 2010 5:37 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

One woman drowns, several rescued at Amagansett beach on Sunday

Aug 10, 2010 5:37 PM

A woman died after being pulled from dangerous surf at an unprotected beach in Amagansett on Sunday afternoon, according to East Hampton Town Police, who assisted in rescuing several people from the water during a relatively short window of the day when sudden riptides made beaches dangerous.

Police said they received a call at 2:15 p.m. reporting several distressed swimmers at the beach in Amagansett, between Atlantic Avenue and Napeague Lane. When they arrived, police said they found a civilian assisting several swimmers out of the “heavy surf and dangerous riptides.” Many on the beach that day described the scene as chaotic and said it was hard to determine how many people were in distress, because many would-be rescuers experienced trouble getting to shore themselves.

Police said that when Leslie Wanek Sgaglione, 45, of Old Brookville was taken from the water, she was unconscious and not breathing. Officers administered CPR and other lifesaving efforts, police said, but Ms. Sgaglione did not recover consciousness. She was taken to Southampton Hospital, where she was officially pronounced dead at 3:23 p.m.

Police Captain Mike Sarlo said Ms. Sgaglione was apparently renting a house in the area and was on vacation with her family. Her children were reportedly on the beach, he said. She was not related to the other swimmers rescued from the water, he said.

“It seemed like it was an ‘all hands on deck’ situation,” he said. “It was unclear who was helping who, and who was in the water at any given point.”

Michael Siden, of New York, said he was at the beach on Sunday and his 7-year-old son was one of the boys on boogie boards. Mr. Siden said he had been standing knee-deep in the water, right next to his son, around 1:30 when he felt the tide start to change and he got nervous.

“It just felt funny,” he said on Tuesday. “It felt too strong and I wasn’t comfortable going in any deeper.”

He said the first sign of distress came from the other boy on the boogie board, who was about 40 feet away. Mr. Siden said he ran his son out of the water and made his way toward the other boy, who he could now hear saying “My father is out there! My father is out there!”

Mr. Siden said there was already another man in the water, who pushed the boy toward Mr. Siden, and Mr. Siden was able to bring him to the beach. The boy was still screaming that his father was in the water, Mr. Siden said, so he went back in.

Mr. Siden said at that point, he could see two men in distress, and “a man with a beard” appeared and said he was “going to get the woman,” and went back into the water.

Mr. Siden went back in as well. He said the next roughly 20 minutes were “kind of a blur” that felt more like 20 hours, as he tried to reach the men. Mr. Siden, who said he has spent many summers at the beaches in Amagansett and understood how dangerous the riptides can be, knew he couldn’t go in much farther.

But he said he inched as close to the men as possible, he said, reaching for the nearest man and encouraging him to grab his hand.

“The word I keep using is beacon,” he said. “I wanted to be a beacon to these guys, so at least it gave them something to shoot for. When you’re out in the water like that, looking back at the beach, it looks like it’s miles away.”

He said after about 10 minutes, he was able to grab one man’s arm, and that man was able to grab the other, and Mr. Siden struggled to help them to shore.

That was about the same time he saw the man with the beard pull Ms. Sgaglione out of the water, Mr. Siden said. It was the first time he had seen her at all and he could tell she was not breathing.

When Mr. Siden got to the beach, he said there were four children screaming and crying. They all looked to be under the age of 12, and he was told they were Ms. Sgaglione’s children.

John Ryan, chief lifeguard for the Town of East Hampton, said he arrived to the scene after Ms. Sgaglione had already been pulled from the water. He said about five town lifeguards, six to eight Ocean Rescue volunteers, and the Amagansett Ambulance squad all responded, and lifeguards immediately began CPR.

Mr. Siden said he was overwhelmed and out of breath and he left the scene. He said he spent the rest of the day and most of Monday in shock, realizing how close he was to danger himself, and wishing he could have done something for Ms. Sgaglione.

Amagansett Fire Chief Mark Bennett said one other swimmer was taken to Southampton Hospital and released in stable condition. Three other swimmers from the same incident were monitored at the beach and released. About 45 minutes later, he said his department received another call of distressed swimmers about 2,000 feet to the east, and two more swimmers were pulled out of the water.

Captain Sarlo said all accounts of the surf at that time indicate that it appeared calm and suitable for swimming. “Visually, it didn’t appear to be that rough, but as the tide was changing, riptides became dangerous pretty quickly,” he said.

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These stories are so hard to hear. Condolences to family and friends
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Aug 9, 10 2:23 PM
3 members liked this comment
In the coverage of this unfortunate event, and in Newsday and the Star, there is no mention of the fact that riptides are dangerous mainly if swimmers fight them. With the water this warm, it is pretty simple to swim WITH the riptide out beyond the break, and then to take one's time to find a safe way back to the beach,


the swimmer knows that there is a way to save himself or herself.

Unfortunately this knowledge is not commonly known, and swimmers instinctively fight ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 9, 10 4:07 PM
2 members liked this comment
Indeed this could help PBR, but it would require people to have a sense of awareness that is all too rare out here in the summer. They would also need to be able to swim fairly well in the ocean which is not very common.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 9, 10 5:49 PM
maybe they can laminate this instructonal handout and the swimmer can read it while they are drowning? OR, how about a few lifeguards along the beaches on marine blvd?
By AJL (6), Amagansett on Aug 9, 10 4:30 PM
Maybe people can use common sense and know their limitations. Life Guards aren't the answer, responsible decision making is. Too many people are too careless as they wander through life, whether it be driving and not paying attention to the road or entering the ocean at an unprotected beach without proper knowledge of the sea. We can't protect everyone from themselves nor should we.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 9, 10 5:45 PM
1 member liked this comment
Or maybe people should understand, and realize how easily this planet which gave you life, can simply take it in less than a heartbeat.

Maybe people should respect what is more powerful than they are, and educate themselves about the risks of any activity, even one as seemingly innocent, and inocuous as swimming in the ocean. Because it is neither.

This is the same ocean that can wallop Florida with a hurricane. This is the same ocean, that can rape Thailand with a typhoon. ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 9, 10 5:31 PM
2 members liked this comment
Mr. Z said it correctly. The ocean has unbelievable power. It will chew you up and spit you out. Don't fear it, just respect it. And yes, I've seen a person drown on a local beach. It only takes a minute. The event produced razor sharp memories that still bother me to this day. Those who were present yesterday and were able to help in some way, should be commended.
By BruceB (142), Sag Harbor on Aug 9, 10 7:58 PM
2 members liked this comment
The beaches that have public access and no lifeguards are clearly posted, at least in Southampton Town. I was at the beach on Sunday, myself and my friends are all strong swimmers who grew up here spending summer days at the ocean. We chose not to swim, and to just stay in the surf. The bottom line is that if a person is not a strong swimmer and isn't aware of what is going on they shouldn't be in the water. Especially at a beach where there are no lifeguards.
By Sag Native (54), East Hampton on Aug 9, 10 6:07 PM
1 member liked this comment
these are private access areas not public they are for the community only
By keepittoyourself (3), new york on Aug 9, 10 7:25 PM
1 member liked this comment
That is slightly incorrect.

Though the area has a private access, private ownership extends no further than the high tide line, as I recall. Which is pretty much at the dunes anyway. Just because someone "owns" the walkway access, does not mean they own the adjacent beach.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 9, 10 8:41 PM
3 members liked this comment
Mr. Z. is correct, but I believe the term of art is "the median high tide mark."
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Aug 9, 10 9:11 PM
That is in instances where the Trustees don't own the beach, in this area they do own it.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 9, 10 10:02 PM
just for anyone who is interested..please do not read if you do not want to hear details..unfortunately i left so i couldnt talk to the police..but i was in the center of everthing. it all started with very calm water and medium sized waves. I was in the water attempting to go in and all i remember was seeing a 10year old crying on a boogie board and i didnt know why. Then, his dad ran out to help his son who was distressed, meanwhile i was just trying to head in not thinking much. But once the ...more
By 123man (1), New York on Aug 9, 10 6:59 PM
1 member liked this comment
you where clearly not on the same beach yes a very tragic accident but the father and son where not screaming for help the father got his kid and was not in distress he actually brought his son to shore safely and then went back in to save the women. and in your story you u started by saying u were on the shore just trying to head in the water and then you said your where trying to head into shore what is your truth man if you did see it happen and left the beach without talking to the cops your ...more
By keepittoyourself (3), new york on Aug 9, 10 7:24 PM
123man had the story exactly right. I was the father and I did not get in to shore with my child and I certainly was in no position to help others. I got to my son as fast as I could and told him over and over just not to let go of his board no matter what happened. The waves knocked him off 2 or 3 times and I used all my energy to get him back on the board. I got my son close enough to the sandbar that others could grab him and then I was swept back out again because I was too exhausted to swim ...more
By Kemyst (5), Amagansett on Aug 9, 10 7:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
what is wrong with you dude? Why harsh on a guy for telling what he observed?
By littleplains (305), olde england on Aug 10, 10 9:12 PM
I think the father and son you are referring to was Mr. Siden and his son (from article's update). As he describes in the article, he got his son out immediately without incident and then he did turn around to go back in for others. The "father and son" that 123man was referring to was me and my son--I went to get him after he got caught in the rip current and we both ended up trapped in the breakers. I got my son close enough to two others that they could grab him from me and then they handed ...more
Aug 11, 10 5:41 PM appended by Kemyst
To be clear: my life for my sons' was the trade I was willing to make. It breaks my heart that a person--and a parent--at the beach died. If she was in the water to help with others then she is a hero too. I hope her family finds peace.
By Kemyst (5), Amagansett on Aug 11, 10 5:41 PM
Unless you were at this particular beach at the time you should keep your proselytizing to yourselves about what was or wasn't obvious or should have been known. I was there. Most of the people, including the children were "swimming" in knee-deep water not 15 feet from shore. No one was out in the surf, which wasn't even rough until the tides suddenly switched. The rip current appeared instantly and pulled people out to the breakers.

Yes there are theoretically ways to get out of rip currents, ...more
By Kemyst (5), Amagansett on Aug 9, 10 7:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
As a resident of the Dunes and also as someone who witnessed this horrible thing firsthand I would like to see about our dues going toward lifeguards at Deerfield, Gardner, and Nappeague. Too many families and small children.
By Dunes18 (1), amagansett on Aug 9, 10 7:11 PM
2 members liked this comment
123man was not at the scene and if he was he left the scene without speaking to the cops and doing you do dillagence i simply cant belive him cause for all of us who where there it was a horribly accident and the father who saved his son went back in to help the women . your story u were heading into the water and then the next thing you said you where trying to get into shore. PLEASE THIS WAS A TERRIBLE THING JUST WISH THE FAMILY THE BEST END OF STORY
By keepittoyourself (3), new york on Aug 9, 10 7:30 PM
123man was definitely at the scene. His account is mostly accurate. At least the part in the water that I witnessed is. The account in the Star is pretty accurate except for the part where it says there was a red flag all day. The flag was yellow at Atlantic Beach. We had checked it there less than an hour before going to Deerfield.

By Kemyst (5), Amagansett on Aug 9, 10 8:08 PM
1 member liked this comment
Back in the early1970's, as a child, I will never forget leaving Scott Cameron beach in Bridgehampton with my dad and seeing a happy family with boogie boards heading for the sea....within an hour we heard that two of them had drowned in the riptide/undertoe. The beautiful Atlantic can suddenly become deadly...yes education is important but panic can sometimes overtake even the best swimmer....may God bless the Sgaglione family for their loss..this mom's actions were heroic.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Aug 9, 10 8:58 PM
FINALLY, people who were there, which i was, can tell others, that this was not a case of ignorance or poor swimming ability. the two young kids were on their boogie boards only a few feet from the sand. i watched the rip current pull them out in an instant. i was one of the two guys in knee high water helping people in. there were several others who went in completely to assist.
Why people continue to say only advanced swimmers should enter the water is infuriating and unrealistic. i agree ...more
By AJL (6), Amagansett on Aug 9, 10 9:35 PM
2 members liked this comment
I was there too, and i couldn't agree more. no one was being irresponsible. I went in and tried to help the boy on the boogie board and his father. I'm an excellent swimmer and was once, albeit 20 years ago, a holder of an ALS (advanced life saving card). I realized after 5 minutes that I couldn't power through and that i would have only made things worse and I had to go back to shore. I"m so happy that the boy and his father were able to make it in ok, but also so sorry I wasn't able to do it ...more
By JRH (1), amagansett on Aug 9, 10 10:40 PM
2 members liked this comment
please let this be a catalyst for the "dues" for the amagansett east and dunes area to be used for lifeguards instead of guards at the access point. our prayers for the victim and her family.
By tito (56), e hampton on Aug 9, 10 9:51 PM
3 members liked this comment
If lifeguards are needed and wanted, the people who own homes there need to ante up when it comes time to pay dues. If everyone paid their dues and went to the meetings, maybe they could work out a plan for life guards. One thing is for sure, if the access is private, there is no right or reason for EH Town to provide lifeguards no matter how many people use the beach there.
Yellow flag means you should not be more than a few feet from your child if you are going to allow them in the ocean. ...more
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 9, 10 10:00 PM
ICE, you keep saying the same thing, "dont panic, dont panic"... not everyone is a Navy Seal. you are a special human, congratulations. 99.5% of the people swimming are not. you finally answered the lifeguard question, its money. we will see if this motivates the Amagansett homeowners to ante up.
By AJL (6), Amagansett on Aug 9, 10 10:09 PM
2 members liked this comment
I am a member of the community in which the Scaglione family lives. I am also someone who has enjoyed this same Amagansett beach every summer since 1976. This very beach which has brought my family and friends wonderful memories is now stained with this horrific event. Our community is heartbroken. This is a wonderful family and I was comforted to know, but not surprised at all, to read the detailed account esxplaining how Leslie went into the water responding to someone in distress. We have ...more
By beachmom (2), Glen Head on Aug 9, 10 11:01 PM
1 member liked this comment
I am the mother of the boy who was rescued and the wife of the man who commented as Kemyst. I want to reiterate that we were/are very knowledgeable and respectful of the ocean, and were in no way irresponsible as some suggest. I am a marine geologist and my husband is a very strong swimmer and windsurfer. I personally had checked the flag at Atlantic Ocean beach just an hour prior to entering the ocean, and it was clearly yellow and not red, and there were absolutely no riptides when my family ...more
By AmagansettMom (1), South Grafton on Aug 10, 10 12:27 PM
4 members liked this comment
It is hard to imagine the distress you may continue to feel as each day passes by. As a mother, the "What if?" questions would haunt me. Your gratitude to those who came to your aide is clear and your condolences heartfelt and sincere. As the Scaglione children and her husband continue to grapple with this devastation on a moment to moment basis, I can't help but wonder if they might get comfort from your gratitude. While I think they will need much time before this could be an option, I will ...more
By beachmom (2), Glen Head on Aug 10, 10 1:39 PM
2 members liked this comment
Thank you for your post but please admit that yes, you were irresponsible. You chose to swim at an unguarded beach. We all have done it and we all should learn from this experience and others like it and never do it again.
By thewiseking (17), Montauk on Aug 16, 10 7:01 PM
Thank you for your post but please admit that yes, you were irresponsible. You chose to swim at an unguarded beach. We all have done it and we all should learn from this experience and others like it and never do it. We all know of lovely, serene, private beaches out East where we would love to spend the day, but it is plainly irresponsible to sea bathe at an unguarded beach, especially with children.
By thewiseking (17), Montauk on Aug 16, 10 7:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
I am a surfer and former lifeguard of 12 years at local beaches. I was at a different beach when this happened but cannot recall conditions ever changing as quickly as they did this day. It is a terrible tragedy and I can only hope that as a result more people decide to take advantage of our life guarded beaches and this area of the beach gets a lifeguard for next summer. I read about someone drowning every summer and always think about the fact that it never happens at guarded beaches.
By Neighbor (10), East Hampton on Aug 10, 10 12:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
Lifeguards along the entire stretch of every beach would be the answer, but not very practical. But what I don't understand is why there isn't life saving equipment along the entire stretch of every beach. Rescue tubes and cans should be stored every few hundred feet along any beach just like fire extinguishers are kept in commercial building hallways. When an emergency such as this arises, then at least the heroic rescuers would be equipped and not become victims themselves.
At a small cost ...more
By deelove (152), Bridgehampton on Aug 10, 10 2:49 PM
2 members liked this comment
deelove: i asked that very same queston the officer that arrived at our beach on Sunday. Why isn't there a rope, better flotation device or more safety equipment at the walkway. He said everything they have put there in the past had been used in bonfires or simply taken.
By AJL (6), Amagansett on Aug 10, 10 3:19 PM
It's a sad situation. But the fact is this will be repeated just about every time we have a swell from a tropical storm, like we had this weekend from 'Colin' or a distant hurricane, which we'll see soon enough. If your not an ocean swimmer
do not be lulled into thinking you can handle it. You can't. The ocean takes what ever it wants, sand dunes and houses included. I listen to the weather radio everyday,I surf and it keeps us informed. For the casual beach goer It always says swim only in ...more
By ride the truth wave (125), southampton on Aug 10, 10 3:52 PM
3 members liked this comment
Last Sunday I was at the beach in Amagansett with my sister and my boyfriend.We arrived at approx 3:30. The day was beautiful, and the surf was moderate -- at most. Rolling waves, but not particularly high. The beach goers were relaxed and playful. We spotted a few ambulances about one quarter of a mile down the beach, which isn't all that unusual. Some people drink too much the night before and pass out (as what happened last year), or have heat stroke (last year too). It was hot so we all ...more
By hawks nest (2), new york on Aug 11, 10 1:31 AM
1 member liked this comment
Hero is so overused these days and cheapened by the doing so.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 11, 10 10:23 PM
I was at the beach that day and it was yellow flag which was changed to red early before this happened. I never swim anywhere with no lifeguards present. The lifeguards at this beach are excellant, for years I have watched them and they have answered my questions and educated me for safe swimming. The million dollar question is why do people swim in these area's? Just a 3/4 or mile walk down the shore line this would of been avoided. My opinion is you should swim with a lifeguard even if a green ...more
By karen d (1), East Hampton on Aug 11, 10 10:52 PM
Good luck all in handling the recent event, I know what it's like to see up front and personal thousands perish all at once, you must accept it, honor the woman's valiant bravery to help and keep your emotions in check, love and cherish each day. Good health and well wishes to all, especially anyone directly affected by this wonderful woman's loss. Be kind to each other and don't second guess and replay the history over, let it go.
By BlackDog (47), East Hampton on Aug 11, 10 11:36 PM
3 members liked this comment
yes, black dog you are right. it's difficult not to second guess and to let go, especially when a vibrant young life was taken so suddenly. self righteousness does not help anyone, especially the victims of the tragedy.
By hawks nest (2), new york on Aug 12, 10 12:02 AM
what a sad, tragic day. i recall years ago being on fire island where, on one tragic afternoon, the ocean took the lives of seven people. the tide changed in an instant.

that night the moon was large and low and red and the ocean eerily calm as though sated. i never felt more respect or fear of the ocean and saw first hand it's power.

my sincere, deepest condolences to the family of leslie sgaglione, especially her young children, witnesses to this awful occurence.
By concerned east ender (49), Sag Harbor on Aug 12, 10 4:47 PM
A lot has been made of the sudden change in conditions, this is a factor which can and should be expected when dealing with the ocean. There was a groundswell that day from tropical storm Colin. Groundswells lose a great deal of their power when the tide is outgoing, at times they all but disappear. As soon as the tide switches the waves will increase quickly. This seems to be what happened this day as the time of the incident coincides with the change in tide. This was not a freak occurrence nor ...more
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 12, 10 9:47 PM
As a Montauk renter with access to a beautiful, scenic, private, serene nearby beach there is only ONE logical conclusion from having read every post and the original accounting; ONLY SWIM AT GUARDED BEACHES
By thewiseking (17), Montauk on Aug 16, 10 6:53 PM
Completely unrealistic when guarded beaches cover maybe 5% of the coastline given the population out in the Hamptons.
By Kemyst (5), Amagansett on Aug 19, 10 9:56 AM
1 member liked this comment
Okay, then SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK! And please don't whine about there not being lifeguards when someone drowns.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 19, 10 9:09 PM
Clearly, ICE, you have no life and have nothing better to do with you time than post negative comments on this site. I feel for you. Get a better hobby - and a more positive attitude. And please stop commenting on this thread. Leslie deserves more respect
By Dunes74 (3), Amagansett on Aug 20, 10 12:38 AM
1 member liked this comment
Negative??? Truth hurts baby, my comments have been realistic and objective. Your personal attack just makes me laugh. Own up to the fact that those who decide to swim at unguarded beaches do so at a risk to themselves and others.
Sorry I can't condone this irresponsible behavior.
If the Ocean is calm, then maybe the risk isn't so great, but yellow flag means watch yourself out there. A little common sense goes a long way.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 20, 10 3:42 PM