Bystanders with quick reflexes rescued a woman who fell off a downtown Riverhead dock into the Peconic River as Santa arrived for the town’s annual bonfire event Saturday night.

Three men who were standing near the woman on the dock were able to pull her out of the water. None of them had to jump into the cold water themselves to pull her out

Frank Jefferson of Riverhead, one of three men who rescued a woman who’d fallen from a downtown Riverhead dock into the Peconic River as she snapped a picture of Santa arriving by boat Saturday night.

“I heard splashing and I realized she’d fallen in,” said Frank Jefferson, 30, of Riverhead, who was at the event with his three young daughter.

Jefferson was joined in the effort to pull the woman from the water by Chris Keating, 44, of NYC and Mattituck and Keating’s friend Neil Marion who is visiting from upstate Monroe, N.Y.

“We heard a plunge and immediately feared it was a kid,” Keating said.

The woman fell into the gap between the dock and the boat ramp as she snapped pictures of Santa, witnesses said.

“She went under,” Marion said.

Jefferson dropped his cell phone in the water when he bent down to help pull the woman out. He managed to retrieve his own phone and the woman’s from the muddy bottom, he said. Black silt coated his hands and his iPhone.

“I’m just glad we were able to help her out,” Jefferson said.

The woman, a 64-year-old Florida resident, was taken by Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps to Peconic Bay Medical Center for evaluation. She was smiling and talking, though cold and a bit shaken up from the incident, which occurred at about 5:30 p.m.

She was at the bonfire with her daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters who live in Baiting Hollow.

“We’re very grateful for their quick action,” the daughter said before getting in the ambulance to ride to the hospital with her mom.  “She’s fine and we thank them very much.”


RiverheadLOCAL photos by Peter Blasl

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.