Local/State

Swimmers warned after 5 drownings at NJ shore

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

We're only about halfway through the summer and, already, five people have drowned at the New Jersey shore.

All of those deaths happened at a time when no lifeguards were on duty.

Those lifeguards go off-duty around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. each evening. However, with heat wave after heat wave this summer, it's likely that a lot of people will stay on the beach and go swimming.

"They leave at 5:00 and from 5:00 to 7:00 or 5:00 to 8:00 it's still pretty hot so we definitely go in," said Don Grippo of Westchester, New York.

"I know that I'm not protected but I really don't think about it," said Sarah Kayal of Belvidere, New Jersey. "I don't go out far. I'm not going to swim until I can't get back myself."

Among those who've died swimming at unprotected beaches is 10 year old Khitan Devine of Philadelphia, who was swept away in June while bathing in the water off Atlantic City.

Beach officials in Seaside Park, where an 18-year-old man also drowned last month, say there are powerful rip currents this week. By mid-afternoon they'd pulled 9 people out of the water.

They're afraid vacationers who swim after lifeguards go off duty are vulnerable.

"They don't know the ocean, they're not brought up down here and they don't know the dangers of the rips," said Lt. Mike Veracierta of the Seaside Park Beach Patrol.

"Anybody's vulnerable to risk like this. You jump in the water, you jump in the wrong spot, come off the sandbar and you can get yourself in trouble," said Sgt. Brian Rybasack of the Seaside Park Beach Patrol.

Overconfidence in one's abilities can be a killer.

"Everyone thinks that they know what they're doing, but five drownings while they're off duty? It goes to show the facts are there," said Chris Woolf of Manahawkin, New Jersey.

"The last drowning, I was here when it happened, and I was devastated for the parents. God forbid, that could be my child," said Gloria Battaglio of Manahawkin, New Jersey.

Guards say dipping your feet in is one thing, but going in all the way is dangerous. So, the message is 'use common sense.' If the lifeguards aren't on duty, don't swim.

The life you save may be your own.

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