This story was updated on May 18 at 6:30 p.m.
Mike Kennedy, 57, a bayman, was found dead on Sunday at 8:20 a.m. in the Long Island Sound off Centre Island. A call was received by Centre Island Police that morning from a fisherman that saw a clam boat adrift in a popular area for clamming. The Nassau Marine Unit found the boat one mile north of Centre Island in the vicinity of Rocky Point. And the Nassau County Aviation Unit spotted Kennedy, who was floating in the water a quarter of a mile away from his boat.
A rescue boat with members of the Bayville Fire Company and a bay constable searched for Kennedy as did two members of Atlantic Steamer who were on jet skis.
“We pulled up and got him out,” said Joe Rodgers, Bayville’s fire chief, who is also a bay constable. “It was kind of difficult, which is why we got help from Atlantic Steamer and the bay constable.”
Rodgers added that there was a Town of Oyster Bay medic on the boat as well as an emergency medical technician.
“My son, James, jumped into the water off one of the jet skis to help retrieve the body,” said Atlantic Steamer Fire Chief James Ceglia, adding that this is the first incident of this type that his fire company responded to in 2020. “We’ve been out for overturned sailboats this year but this was the first recovery we’ve done.”
When Kennedy’s body was retrieved Ceglia said there was a gash on his head.
A Bayville resident, Kennedy was a member of the North Oyster Bay Baymen's Association, a non-profit that supports the efforts of non-commercial clammers.
William Painter, the organization’s president said the fact that Kennedy’s body was found floating implied that he wasn't in the water long. Kennedy, Painter said, was popular. "Mike was a good guy, liked by everyone," Painter said. "He was friendly to everyone, even those who weren't a member of our association."
Painter said his son Will had received a text from Kennedy at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday saying that he was going out clamming.
"I'm not sure how this happened," Painter said. "Did he slip, have a medical issue? I just don't know."
Ceglia said that weather conditions could have been a factor. There were gusty winds and the water was choppy when his dive team responded, he said.
“It was a rescue effort when we went out but it ended up being a recovery,” Rodgers said. “It was super sad. I knew him, saw him on the water all the time. He was fun to be around, someone everyone knew.”
Jamie Dick, 57, of Oyster Bay, Kennedy’s companion for 15 years, described him as a bear of a man with a big smile, which is what she said first attracted her to him. “He was 6’3” and 275 pounds with arms and calves like Popeye,” Dick said. “And he had a heart as big as you could ever find.”
The couple had broken up five years ago but remained close friends, Dick said.
Kennedy had owned the Locust Valley business Mike Kennedy Masonry until 10 years ago. Then he became a clammer.
Dick said Kennedy loved history and was an excellent cook, able to take any ingredients, regardless of how limited, and create a gourmet meal.
The Nassau County Police Dept. and the United States Coast Guard also responded.