Update: Man drowns off Long Point

A Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter involved in the response as seen from Sepiessa. - Rich Saltzberg

courtesy Ollie Becker of MVFF Productions

Updated Sept. 28 

A man recovered from the waters off Long Point Monday afternoon by a U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer deployed from a helicopter was later pronounced dead. 

On Tuesday, the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office identified the deceased as Donald Reagan, 58, of Fairfax, Va.

In a statement to The Times, Cape and Island District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Tara Miltimore wrote that emergency personnel were dispatched Monday afternoon on a call about swimmers caught in a rip current. 

“One of the swimmers was able to eventually exit the water, and had called 911,” Miltimore wrote. “The other swimmer, identified as Donald Reagan (DOB 12/24/62) of Fairfax, Va., was taken by a strong East rip current which pulled him farther out to sea.” 

On Monday, West Tisbury Police Sgt. Matt Gebo initially described Reagan, whose identity was not yet disclosed, as a “possible drowning victim,” but a short time later he told The Times the man was deceased. Chilmark Fire Rescue, Chilmark Police, West Tisbury Fire Rescue, West Tisbury Police, the Dukes County Sheriff’s Office, and Tri-Town Ambulance all responded to the scene. 

Chilmark Fire Chief Jeremy Bradshaw said the call came in just after 4 pm for a person in distress in a rip current off Quansoo. First responders eventually discovered two kayaks on the West Tisbury side of the Tisbury Great Pond cut, and the reporting party, who was one of the kayakers. Chief Bradshaw said evidently the kayakers had gone swimming and encountered problems. He noted the rip current running parallel to shore was particularly fierce. 

The U.S. Coast Guard deployed a vessel from Station Menemsha and a Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Cape Cod, according to Petty Officer Emma Fliszar. The Jayhawk crew dispatched a rescue swimmer in the vicinity of Tisbury Great Pond.

Miltimore wrote that the Coast Guard “located Reagan floating face-down in the water.” 

“The rescue swimmer picked up the person,” Petty Officer Fliszar said. West Tisbury Fire Chief Greg Pachico said the rescue swimmer recovered the man from the surf fairly close to shore. 

Chief Bradshaw said the Jayhawk landed on the beach, and the man was taken on and brought to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. 

Fliszar confirmed the Jayhawk went to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

Miltimore wrote that Reagan was “subsequently pronounced deceased” at the hospital.

Sgt. Gebo said the reporting party was taken to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital by Tri-Town Ambulance for observation.

Chief Pachico described the reporting party as “pretty wiped out” after apparently having tried to rescue the deceased. 

“The matter remains under investigation by West Tisbury Police, State Police detectives assigned to the District Attorney’s Office, and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner; however, there is nothing at this time to suggest foul play,” Miltimore wrote.

Updated with confirmation of the man’s death, identification, and more details.


  1. The ocean has once more reminded us to be cautious and occasionally fearful and to show respect for its awesome power. So sorry to hear of another life lost off our powerful south shore.

  2. This was my brother whom I loved and admired greatly. My heart is completely broken. He was a good and loving man. This does not seem real to me that he is gone.

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