OCEAN CITY – Very little new information was made available this week on the skeletal remains found strewn along the beach in downtown Ocean City last week except for a confirmation from the state medical examiner’s office the remains are definitely human, but more information came to light on the process by which they were collected.
Shortly before 2 p.m. last Wednesday, Ocean City police responded to the beach at North Division Street in reference to a citizen’s report of the discovery of possible skeletal remains. Throughout the afternoon and into Wednesday evening, resort police canvassed the beach in the area where the initial discovery was made and continued to find more skeletal remains.
At first, OCPD were uncertain if the skeletal remains found on the beach as far north as 22nd Street and as far south as Dorchester Street were, in fact, human remains. Late last Friday, the OCPD released a statement confirming the skeletal remains found on the beach were indeed human, although no new information about their possible identity has come to light. A state medical examiner’s office spokeswoman said on Wednesday the process to identify the remains was ongoing.
Meanwhile, the process by which many of the skeletal remains were recovered on the beach proved interesting. After the initial discovery, a handful of similar reports from different areas of the beach started trickling in. Uncertain of just what they were dealing with, the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) contacted the town’s Public Works Department to assist with a systematic combing of the beach.
Using the town’s Barber Surf Rake, a large tractor and hopper combination designed to sift through wet sand, public works employees meticulously combed the water’s edge near the high tide line with OCPD detectives and officers following close behind, according to Assistant Public Works Director Dick Malone.
The equipment is essentially the same as the large tractor-hopper combines familiar to most residents and visitors used to clean the beaches in the resort each night in the summer season, but is designed to sift through heavy, wet sand.
“We assisted the OCPD on at least three different occasions during the two days at times of very low tides,” said Malone. “It must have been very successful because apparently they found what they were looking for.”
Malone said the process was a slow one with OCPD detectives following behind on foot or on ATVs closely watching what was sifted into the hopper behind the tractor.
“Normally, when we clean the beach with these things, we go about 7 mph and can do the whole island in an hour to an hour and a half,” he said. “Last week, we were going about 1 to 2 mph so the detectives could actually walk along.”