PROSPECT — As Tom Murphy tells it, he only did what anyone would have done when he saw a small boy treading water far offshore at a state park in Milford.
Murphy pulled the boy aboard his Jet Ski and brought him to safety.
“I think God was with him,” Murphy, 44, of Prospect, said. “It was one of those situations. I think we just had to be in the right place at the right time.”
Murphy rescued a 9-year-old boy who was swept off a sandbar along with an adult at Silver Sands State Park in Milford on the Fourth of July, said Dwayne Gardner, a spokesman with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Authorities later found the boy’s companion, Rocco Daddio Jr., 34, of Hamden, who was taken to Milford Hospital where he was pronounced dead, Gardner said. The 9-year-old was unharmed, he said.
Daddio and the boy were walking on a sandbar that connects Silver Sands beach to Charles Island, Gardner said. The sandbar stretches about a mile and narrows as it approaches the island. The tides and currents are very rapid in that area, he said.
As Daddio and the boy got closer to the island, the tide came in fast and swept both off the sandbar, Gardner said. Officials with the DEEP responded to a report of two missing persons at 3 p.m. Daddio was taken from the water at about 5:40 p.m.
Daddio, who was a family friend to the boy, went under while the boy was able to tread water and was picked up by Murphy around 3:30 p.m., Gardner said.
The search involved the lifeguards, Environmental Conservation police and the Coast Guard. Members of the Milford Fire Department also responded.
“It’s still under investigation to determine exactly what happened,” Gardner said.
Murphy, who is a customer service supervisor for Northeast Utilities, went with his family to Silver Sands for the holiday. They have an area where they Jet Ski and are familiar with the waters, he said.
He was riding with his nephew, Tom Smith, 11, on one Jet Ski, and his son, Matthew, 15, and nephew, Tyler Smith, 13, on the other. As they headed toward shore, Murphy saw something bobbing in the water.
When they got closer, it was a shock to find a 9-year-old boy, kicking in the water and wearing no life preserver, he said.
The boy called out for help and said he was drowning, Murphy said. They placed the boy between himself and his nephew because they didn’t have an extra life preserver.
He said the boy, while catching his breath, told him repeatedly “Thank you.” Murphy asked if he fell out of a boat, and he said that’s when the boy told him he was with his mom’s friend who doesn’t know how to swim and he can’t find him.
A lifeguard in a kayak came up, and his son and nephew also pulled up alongside him. The boy told the lifeguard what happened. Murphy’s son and nephew went onshore to notify the lifeguard bench to call 911, while the lifeguard sent Murphy and his other nephew onshore to bring the boy directly to a guard station, he said.
Murphy brought the boy to safety, and then returned to the water with his brother-in-law Fred Smith to join the search for the boy’s companion.
“I think anybody who would have went by and seen this little boy would have stopped and would have helped him,” Murphy said.
Before he left the shore, Murphy spoke with the boy and the boy’s mother.
He said the boy managed to stay afloat and once found, told authorities about his mom’s friend.
“I told him you’re just an absolute remarkable kid,” Murphy said. “That’s the real truth of the whole matter.”