OCEAN CITY — A potential early season tragedy was averted this week when two off-duty and two on-duty Ocean City Beach Patrol officers helped pull a swimmer in distress from the ocean in the 28th Street area on Wednesday afternoon.
Shortly after 4 p.m., two off-duty Beach Patrol officers were surfing in the area of 28th Street when they observed a young man caught in a rip current and in distress and immediately initiated a rescue.
Meanwhile, an individual on the beach witnessing the scene called 911 and a water rescue commence. Two on-duty OCBP officers doing maintenance on lifeguard chairs and the agency’s downtown headquarters responded to the scene. By the time, the on-duty officers responded, the off-duty surfers and managed to get the imperiled swimmer to a sandbar. The on-duty OCBP officers entered the water and helped get the victim to the beach.
OCBP Lieutenant Ward Kovacs said yesterday the victim was in serious danger and might not have made it without the help of the four guards.
“With a rip current and these water temperatures, the young man got in trouble in a hurry,” he said. “This guy did not have much longer.”
Kovacs said Wednesday’s rescue was not the first action for the OCBP thus far this season.
Around 7 p.m. on Tuesday, an individual on the beach called 911 when she observed two people, a man and woman, struggling in the ocean. The witness said she saw the man get out of the ocean and run across the beach, but never saw the female come out of the water. A water rescue was initiated and the woman got out of the ocean without further incident, but the two events highlighted an oft-repeated public safety message.
“We see more and more of this kind of thing this time of year,” said Kovacs. “The water temperature has risen a little and the ocean becomes more and more inviting, but it’s still very dangerous out there. We can’t stress enough the importance of waiting until the Beach Patrol is manning the beach and watching the ocean. When the water is that cold, even experienced swimmers can get in trouble in a hurry.”
While the OCBP already has some officers patrolling the beaches with all-terrain vehicles, the surf rescue technicians do not start manning their stands full-time until next weekend, Memorial Day weekend.
In the meantime, the OCBP is reminding residents and visitors of their long time mantra, “keep your feet in the sand until the lifeguard’s on the stand.”