GREENPORT, N.Y. --A family from Long Island is happy to be alive after good Samaritans jumped into action after their boat started sinking Wednesday.
Jerry Polanco and his two children were out on the chilly waters of the Peconic Bay off Greenport with only one life jacket between them when the trouble began.
Now, their rescuers are being hailed as heroes. Polanco described the harrowing experience exclusively to Eyewitness News.
He had taken his 9-year-son old Gabriel and 5-year-old daughter Isabella out on the boat when the engine suddenly stopped working.
"My son started crying, my daughter too," he said. "I said, 'stay calm, guys, it's all going to be fine. We're not going to sink."
But then the boat did start to sink, terrifying the children.
"When we were going down in the water, Gabriel said, 'God, I don't want to die,'" he said. "Then Isabella said, 'God, I don't want to die."
About half mile away on shore, Salvatore Augusta and his friend Kevin Quarty heard the commotion.
"We heard yelling and an air horn going off," Augusta said.
"We just left the beach, started running, jumped on the boat," Quarty added.
Augusta and Quarty say they believe the family was in the water for about 15 minutes, and that when they got to them, they were all holding onto a cooler.
"Gabriel was the one who said a boat's coming, boat's coming," Polanco said. "And then we started screaming for help, but they were coming for us."
Polanco calls the two men his angels.
"Pulled the girl up first, then got the little boy, then the father," Quarty said. "Put them on the seat, wrapped them up in towels."
They brought them back to shore, where rescue crews were already waiting to take them to the hospital.
"Right place at the right time," Augusta said. "Just happy it all worked out for everyone."
But for the Polanco family, it's so much more than that.