NBC New York
The widow of a Long Island man describes her husband's final moments and the advice he gave her son before slipping under the water. Now she's pushing for a new law to make life jackets necessary on certain vessels. Greg Cergol reports.
The widow of an NYPD veteran killed in an August kayaking accident says her husband's final words to their 5-year-old son were "just blow that whistle and someone will find you."
Caden Luca was the last person to see his father, Patrick Luca, alive.
Only Caden was wearing a life jacket when father and son were thrown from their kayak into Smithtown Bay. As he struggled to hang on, Patrick handed his hat to Caden and told him what to do to survive.
"Caden always had on a safety whistle and emergency light, and he said to him, 'Just blow that whistle, and someone will find you,'" said Stephanie Luca. "Then he told him that daddy is going to go under the water and not come up. He was going to go to heaven."
Caden Luca has never spoken to his mom about what happened, and she doesn't know much about the day her husband died. But she says Caden told rescuers about his dad's final words and they relayed them to her.
Now, Stephanie Luca is calling on state lawmakers to make it mandatory to wear a life jacket when boarding a vessel less than 15 feet long.
"If I can help one person, that would mean everything to me," she said. "It's helping me to move forward, knowing I am doing something to honor him."
As Stephanie Luca spoke in her Smithtown, Long Island, home, her 5-year-old son Caden played nearby, gently caressing a plastic man in a toy kayak.
A passing boater rescued Caden Luca a short time after his father sank into the water. Patrick Luca's body was discovered the next day. He had served some 21 years in the NYPD.
Suffolk police are still investigating the incident.
"Every time in the day that he was here is different," said Stephanie Luca as she played with her kids. "It will never be the same."
Last month, on what would have been the couple's seventh wedding anniversary, the family helped unveil a sign at the mouth of Smithtown Bay. Dedicated to Patrick Luca, the sign urges boaters to wear life jackets.
"It was such an easy decision that could have saved his life," said Stephanie Luca. "It should be just as easy a decision to make it a law."
Right now, life jackets are mandatory on small vessels in New York only from November to May. National boating groups have opposed a life jacket requirement year-round, according to state senator John Flanagan, who is working with Stephanie Luca.
"I know it won't be easy," added Stephanie Luca. "But my husband's whole life was about saving lives. Why shouldn't I keep doing that?"