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Destined to drown: Gerritsen Beach man dies after fourth plunge into channel

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In death, an elderly Brooklyn seaman fulfilled his destiny, according to the Gerritsen Beach man who saved his life — twice.

The body of the 74-year-old boater was found floating in the frigid water of Plumb Beach Channel off the coast of Gerritsen Beach Sunday afternoon, after the fourth and final tumble he took off the deck of his 30-foot cabin cruiser. This paper is withholding his name until his family is notified.

“When I heard they found a body under the dock, I knew it was [him],” said John Conwell, who had pulled the senior sailor out from Plumb Beach Channel on two prior occasions. “That was his destiny. He was gonna die by falling in the water, and he fulfilled it.”

First responders were called to Channel Avenue near Ebony Court at 12:34 pm, after the man’s body had been spotted floating amidst the docks of the Tamaqua Bar and Marina, where he anchored his boat and worked part time as a gas dock attendant.

No foul play was suspected in the grizzly find, although authorities acknowledged the man’s history of slipping through the rigging, according to a police spokesman.

“He’s had some issues of falling out of his boat before,” the spokesman said.

In fact, the ancient mariner had fallen off his boat three times before Sunday’s fatal plunge. One winter spill two years ago even sent the elderly gent to the hospital for several days after Conwell hauled him onto shore.

“The first time was really bad,” said Conwell.

The slip ups were so frequent the episodes became a running joke between the two men. In an ironically prophetic exchange last week, Conwell warned against any unplanned plunges into Plumb Beach.

“My last words with him were on Super Bowl Sunday and I said, ‘It’s starting to get cold out there, so no swimming this year,’ ” Conwell recounted. “It was an ongoing joke, people were always telling him not to go out there.”

Intoxication played a part in both accidents where Conwell was on hand to lend assistance, and his pal, who had an apartment not far from Gerritsen Beach, was known to sleep off benders in his floating bunk.

“He would drink in the neighborhood, and head back to his boat and spend the night there,” Conwell explained. “Both times when I pulled him out he was drinking.”

Police say it is not clear if alcohol factored into Sunday’s fatal accident.

Friends recall the marina regular as a “dynamite guy,” and wished someone had been around on Sunday when he fell for the last time.

“He’s a very good friend of mine and I’m sorry we found him that way,” said Gerritsen Beach resident Mike Sarubbi. “We tried to keep him in check and everyone was always paying attention to him. This time nobody heard him.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4514.

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