OCEAN CITY – The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland confirmed this week the body found 16 miles off the coast of Ocean City on Monday afternoon was that of a Washington, D.C. man caught in a rip current and reported missing in late August.
Around 2 p.m. on Monday, the U.S. Coast Guard notified the Ocean City Police Department a private boat had located the deceased body of an unknown individual floating in the ocean. The Coast Guard responded to the area and recovered the body and returned it to Ocean City where the process to determine its identity began.
OCPD detectives responded to the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Ocean City to begin an investigation and the body was sent to the office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore for an autopsy to determine the cause of death and the identification of the victim.
On Tuesday, the OCPD announced the Chief Medical Examiner had confirmed the body was that of 22-year-old Washington, D.C. resident Melkis Delgado, who had been reported missing while swimming in stormy seas off the coast of Ocean City back on Aug. 28, touching off a massive, but fruitless search.
The Medical Examiner’s Office was able to determine the identity through forensic fingerprint analysis although the exact cause of death is still pending.
Shortly after 8 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 28, the U.S. Coast Guard received a call about four swimmers in distress just off the beach at 20th Street. Coast Guard Ocean City launched two rescue boats and responded to the scene.
By the time the Coast Guard arrived, off-duty Ocean City Beach Patrol officers with the help of a surfer had pulled three of the four victims safely from the ocean, but a fourth man, later identified as Delgado, was still unaccounted for. According to reports, a language barrier between the victims and their rescuers at first hindered the search for the Delgado, but soon the beach patrol sprang into action and began a methodical search of the area, walking arm-in-arm through the water in an effort to locate the missing swimmer.
From the beach, Ocean City Police and Fire Department vehicles faced the ocean with their headlights on in an attempt to light up the churning water to no avail. Two Coast Guard rescue boats from Station Ocean City, along with a Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) rescue boat, searched the water, while a Coast Guard HH-Dolphin 65 helicopter from Air Station Atlantic City along with a Maryland State Police helicopter searched the water from above.
Coast Guard vessels and helicopters continued to search throughout the night and most of the next day before the search was called off around 5 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 29.
It was believed at the time Delgado and the other victims got caught in a rip current while swimming at night and close to shore after the beach patrol had gone off duty.
Dangerous rip currents caused by the remnants of Hurricane Danielle, which passed far off the coast earlier that weekend, resulted in a busy day for the beach patrol. The beach patrol had made over 250 rip current-related rescues during the day on Aug. 28 and eventually pulled all swimmers from the ocean around 5 p.m., hours before the four victims went into the water.