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New Flotation Stick A 'Game Changer' For Long Island Police

TOBAY BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Boating season brings an important reminder that life vests save lives, but police know boaters don't always wear them.

So now there's a new life-saving tool in the sky. CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff went out with Nassau County and Suffolk County police on Wednesday to witness training.

A capsized boat leaves a victim running out of time, as exhaustion and hypothermia set in. Distress calls like this are all too familiar in Long Island waters.

MORE6 People Rescued After Boat Capsizes On Long Island Sound

Now, there's a new tool to save lives. Police from the two counties are training together to use a rescue stick device. It can be dropped 120 feet above a swimmer in distress from a police chopper, so that it lands feet from the victim, and then self inflates when it hits the water.

Rescue stick
(Photo: CBS2)

"Seconds make a world of difference. This device will keep you afloat and able to breathe and out of the water and also gives us an excellent way to find you on the water because it's a large, bright device. It's easy to see," said Lt. Greg Magnifico of the Nassau County Police Marine Bureau.

"It's a game changer, so simple yet an effective tool to effect a water rescue and possibly save someone's life," added Lt. Adam Fischer of Nassau Police's Aviation Unit.

It's so simple it makes you wonder why a special tool is needed. But aviation officers explained that you can't throw a life preserver or ring out of a chopper because could get sucked into the rotors.

The device, which costs $150 apiece, weighs only a pound, but drops straight down with accuracy, providing nearly instant flotation while saving precious time waiting for a rescue boat.

"We had two opportunities to do it and we were able to get it within 10 to 20 feet of the victim, which is what we want," Nassau Police Tactical Flight Officer Michael Hardial said.

The counties have been training together because they often respond together, Gusoff reported.

Nassau is buying 50 devices, which will be distributed to aviation, marine and patrol cars, because the sticks can be thrown from land, too.

Together, Nassau and Suffolk police responded to nearly 400 water emergencies last year. Not all boaters wear recommended life vests, but now this flotation device can get to them.

New York has more than 400,000 registered powerboats and last year there were 19 reported fatalities.

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