Teen drowns in rough surf in the Rockaways after lifeguards cleared beach due to lightning: NYC Parks

NYC Parks is reminding beachgoers to never swim where red flags are flying because it means no lifeguards are on duty.
Photo by Paul Frangipane

A teenager drowned off Beach 75th Street in the Averne section of the Rockaways on Sunday evening when he became trapped in the rough surf after lifeguards cleared the waters ahead of a thunderstorm, according to NYC Parks.

The 14-year-old boy went swimming just before 5 p.m. after lifeguards closed all of Rockaway Beach due to thunder and lightning, but Parks Enforcement Patrol was alerted of the missing boy at around 5:54 p.m. and raced to the scene. Lifeguards were able to locate the youngster and pulled him to the beach where they performed chest compressions.

“Our hearts go out to the young man’s family and friends following yesterday’s tragedy,” a NYC Parks spokesman said.

Park Enforcement Patrol raced to the scene immediately and the youngster was pulled from the surf but he died at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital.

Beachgoers at the Rockaways, and all city beaches, are being reminded that swimming is not allowed where lifeguards are not on duty. Red flags along the coast serve as a warning that swimming is prohibited.

Retired lifeguard Basia Lewandowski was visiting friends at the lifeguard clubhouse nearby when they were alerted.

“A woman came up to us and started yelling and gesturing that someone’s in the water, ” Lewandowski said. “We do what we call a diving line and so the lifeguards started diving. It was a miracle that we found his body.”

The beaches were reopened by Monday morning.Photo by Paul Frangipane

But the retired lifeguard knew the teen was in grave danger as he was pulled from the surf.

“I spent 15 years as a lifeguard on the beach here in the Rockaways where we would find people but I’ve never actually been involved in any part of anything where somebody could actually die,” Lewandowski told reporters. “He was under probably for like four or five minutes so getting him out was kind of hard. He looked dead, so you know, we did CPR and they took him up to the bus.”

Photo by Bill Parry

The FDNY responded to the scene at 5:57 and EMS transported the victim to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:32 p.m. of cardiac or respiratory arrest, according to the FDNY.

“My heart goes out to the family and loved ones of the young man who lost his life this weekend,” Councilwoman Joann Ariola said. “This was a terrible tragedy that serves as a stark reminder of the power and unpredictability of the Atlantic Ocean. We need to keep working to promote ocean safety awareness in our schools and continue to teach young people about how to enter the ocean safely. We cannot undo the tragedy of this weekend, but we can use this as an opportunity to reflect and think about how we can avoid similar situations in the future.”