One man drowns, two others rescued from Rockaway Beach surf

Police investigate at the scene of drowning at Rockaway Beach.
Photo by Lloyd MItchell


A 24-year-old fatally drowned and two other swimmers had to be rescued after getting pulled under the rough surf off Rockaway Beach in Queens on Friday afternoon, police officials said.

Officers from the 100th Precinct and EMS units responded to a 911 call about the incident at 3:07 p.m. on May 22 off the corner of Shore Front Parkway and Beach 86th Street.

The victim, not yet identified, disappeared into the waves while one of the three made it to shore; another had to be pulled from the water by Good Samaritans.

First responders, including FDNY divers, pulled the man out of the water, but he could not be saved after being rushed to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital. Police have withheld his identity, pending family notification.

A police helicopter at the scene after the rescue of man from Rockaway Beach. (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

Witnesses say the victim apparently hit his head on the rocky jetty and disappeared from view. His two friends attempted to find him, but were enveloped by the waves themselves and had to be rescued.

James McCall, a witness to the drowning, said he saw the young man hit his head.

“There was two guys on the rocks, one guy slipped and hit his head on the rocks. He was floating from one side to the other. He was bleeding heavy. He was in there for quiet amount of time.” James McCall.

Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato who represents the community said she saw rescuers performing CPR.

“I noticed a large group, I said to myself, hey can we social distance?,” Pheffer Amato said. “Then I guess that’s when they called for first responders. They were calling for help, we watched them perform rescues. They were performing CPR, pulled out all the stops for him. Maybe this will cause them to close the beaches now.” 

John McKay 64, said the city should’ve put lifeguards out for the Memorial Day weekend.

“They should’ve had lifeguards out,” he said. “They should of made them get off the rocks. I want to see the beaches open.”

This is the second beach drowning of the season, the first being at Coney Island Beach in which a 19-year-old Bronx woman was rescued by a Good Samaritan, School Safety and other first responders.

Lifeguards are still in training, delayed because of the COVID-19 crisis. Swimming will be allowed later in the season.

In a Facebook video, Amato warned everyone to stay out of the Rockaway water.

“Don’t go on the rocks. There are no lifeguards on duty, there is no swimming,” the assemblywoman warned. “The beaches are closed in New York City. There is no swimming. Don’t even go in with your ankles. Let’s just play it smart. … But this is a warning of what can happen, even walking on the rocks, slipping and getting caught in the currents.”

Police investigate a drowning at Rockaway Beach. (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

Additional reporting by Lloyd Mitchell. This story was updated at 6:10 p.m. on May 22.

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