Rhode Island’s interior waters taking lives, sometimes two at a time – The Providence Journal

Both a 10-year-old Providence girl and the 35-year-old Central Falls man who died trying to save her Monday at Conimicut Point are among a group of Rhode Islanders to lose their lives this year in the waters that flow through Narragansett Bay.

In May, two Warwick residents died sailing in Greenwich Bay. Prior to that, the bodies of two men had been hauled from Rhode Island’s interior waters in separate cold-water incidents.

In late November 2020, a 61-year-old Cumberland woman died while kayaking in Narragansett.

The latest casualties, young Yoskarly Martinez, of Providence, and Valentin Cardona Sanchez, 35, of Central Falls, ventured to the shores of the Bay on Sunday.

The Bay’s lethal currents, as opposed to cold temperatures, posed the greatest threat this time. 

Yoskarly was swept off the sandbar and Sanchez tried to swim after her. Two other men, including her uncle, were injured trying to help her.  

A GoFundMe page established in her name describes Yoskarly as the fun-seeking sister of two younger siblings “and most loving 10-year-old you could ever meet.”

A family member, Lyamaris Gomes, says, “No words can describe this tragedy me and my family are going through, but we are so thankful for all the prayers.”

Another page on the site for Sanchez describes him as “a good father, brother, husband and son” who came to the United States to escape crime and poverty in Guatemala.

Sanchez’ brother, Angel Cardona, says Valentin served in various ministries in the Catholic Church. He “felt empathy for others,” always putting “other people first.”

Sanchez is not the first person to die trying to save someone else at Conimicut Point. He is the first casualty of 2021 to lose his life under those circumstances.

On May 18, 62-year-old Robert Puchta and 66-year-old Luann Cole, both of Warwick, died after their 23-foot sailboat sank in Greenwich Bay.

On April 28, 49-year-old James D. Kimball was pronounced dead after his body was recovered from waters near the end of Nausauket Road, where he was known to dig for quahogs — but on that day he had no rakes or buckets, said Warwick police Detective Capt. Ryan Sornberger.

 A witness, Sornberger said, told police Kimball had consumed alcohol earlier that morning.  Another witness told police she had seen Kimball standing in the water. 

In early March, surveillance cameras at the East Providence Yacht Club and at the nearby Tockwotton on the Waterfront assisted-living and nursing home captured what what might have have been the last few minutes of Dennis P. Lonardo Sr.’s life. 

Lonardo’s son told The Providence Journal that video showed his father walking toward the yacht club, where he lived aboard his boat, named the Fifty-Fifty, and falling off the pier and into the water at 4:26 p.m. on March 3.

Lonardo’s body was found on the eastern shore of the Providence River, , south of Squantum Road, authorities said.

One morning late in 2020, 61-year-old Vickie A. Medeiros, of Cumberland, and another woman kayaked to where the Narrow River meets the southern waters of Narragansett Bay.

The kayakers passed the sand spit and into surf, where Medeiros’ companion eventually saw that Medeiros’s kayak had capsized, she told Department of Environmental Management officials. Medeiros would be pronounced dead at South County Hospital.

DEM investigators later determined that she had lost her life jacket during immersion in 51-degree water.

Even in recent history, the number of people who have died in the strong currents that churn past Conimicut Point and the nearby Conimicut Lighthouse at the top of Narragansett Bay is a sobering litany.  

In 2013, 16-year-old Javon Jimenez of Providence and his cousin were swept off the sandbar.

A kayaker pulled Jimenez’ cousin from the water, but Jimenez disappeared, authorities said at the time. Later, a mixed-breed Labrador retriever working for the Rhode Island State Police helped find Jimenez’s body about 300 yards offshore and submerged at a depth of 15 to 20 feet, authorities said. 

Often, those who have helped, or tried to help, have paid a dear price for their altruism. 

In 2008, Tiffany Martinez, 14, of East Providence, rescued an 8-year-old boy who was stranded with her on the sandbar.

Then, Martinez, who was celebrating her birthday, nearly drowned. She suffered brain damage and died several days later. 

In 1998, 31-year-old Stephen Hayes was fishing at Conimicut when he saw the wake of a passing freighter push two children, his 11-year-old nephew and and an 8-year-old girl, into the water.

Hayes saved the children, but he drowned. Other rescuers also nearly lost their lives in the same rescue attempt.