ASSATEAGUE ISLAND – Authorities suspect the body found Sunday evening off Assateague Island is that of the missing teenager who lost his life in Ocean City one week ago.
It was Sunday, June 17 when Lijpaul Headly, 19, was swimming in the ocean off 31st Street with his cousin and brother. The three non-swimmers were reportedly caught in a rip current. A lifeguard was able to save two of them, but Headly’s body was never found, despite an exhaustive search by the Ocean City Beach Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Maryland State Police and even volunteers.
Although there has been no official confirmation, authorities have reported this morning that the body found last night matches the description of the 19-year-old Morgan State University student. Headly was a young African-American student, and authorities say that’s consistent with the body that was found in the surf on the National Seashore beach at mile post 21.5.
The body was immediately taken to the State Medical Examiner’s office in Baltimore for an autopsy, which will confirm its identity.
In an article published last Friday, Ocean City Beach Patrol Captain Butch Arbin said the tragic incident served as a reminder of the importance of following a few common sense rules when swimming in the ocean. First and foremost is the importance of swimming when the beach patrol is on duty.
“Fortunately, we don’t have a lot of experience with drowning because we get so few of them, but in my 35 years of experience with the Beach Patrol, 95-percent have occurred when the guards are not on duty,” he said.
The second most important factor is swimming ability, according to Arbin.
“If a person wants to enjoy the ocean but doesn’t know how to swim, they should check with the guards to see what the conditions are,” he said. “More importantly, they should go in the water right in front of the guard and stay close to shore. When people suddenly find themselves in water over their heads, they often panic, and a non-swimmer doesn’t struggle very long. The important message in this for all people enjoying the ocean is don’t go beyond your ability.”
For more details, stay tuned to The Dispatch website and see the full story in Friday’s edition.