OCEAN CITY — An 18-year-old Montgomery County man died Monday after being submerged for at least 20 minutes before lifeguards could locate him off 137th Street.
Around 4:30 p.m. Monday, Ocean City Communications reported a water rescue in progress. According to the initial report, the man and two other swimmers entered the ocean and immediately became caught in a rip current. The individuals were reportedly not sound swimmers and witnesses on the scene reported they struggled immediately once losing their footing in the ocean, which was rough on Monday with larger than normal waves for Ocean City and strong currents.
An Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) surf rescue technician entered the water and was able to quickly rescue two of the swimmers but could not locate the third.
Fifteen rescue swimmers from the OCBP as well as the Ocean City Fire Department immediately began diving repeatedly to try and find the man. U.S. Coast Guard personnel were called in as was the Maryland State Police Trooper 4. Eventually, after about 20 minutes, the man was found and brought ashore.
EMS crews immediately began CPR efforts while the other two swimmers watched nearby in an emotional state. Dan Pen Soh Boma, 18, of Burtonsville, Md., was transported by four-wheeler while CPR efforts continued to a waiting ambulance, which after several minutes with the victim inside left the scene for Atlantic General Hospital.
Boma was officially pronounced dead soon after arriving at the hospital, according to officials.
Ocean City Communications Manager Jessica Waters expressed the town’s sentiments after the tragedy.
“Our most heartfelt sympathies go out to the family, friends and loved ones of the victim. On behalf of the entire Town of Ocean City, our thoughts and prayers are with them during this very difficult time,” she wrote in a prepared statement. “As we enter into a very busy weekend, the Ocean City Beach Patrol reminds beachgoers to check in with the lifeguard on duty every time you come to the beach. The lifeguard will inform you of current conditions in your area of the beach, including signs of inclement weather, rip currents and dangerous shorebreaks.”
In an effort to heighten public awareness of rip currents, each year NOAA designates the first full week of June as national Rip Current Awareness Week, coinciding with the traditional start of the summer vacation season.
According to NOAA, rip currents are strong narrow currents moving away from shore. The strongest rip currents can attain speeds reaching eight feet per second, which is faster than an Olympic swimmer can sprint. On average, more people die every year from rip currents than from shark attacks or lightning.
The United States Lifesaving Association estimates 80 percent of surf beach rescues are attributed to rip currents, and more than 100 people die annually from drowning in rip currents.
In his weekly informational article for this publication, OCBP Sgt. Ryan Cowder detailed the dangers associated with rip currents in Ocean City specifically.
“Beach patrons should always consult with the surf rescue technician about ocean conditions including rip current activity and the best place to swim,” he said. “If you start to feel the effects of a rip current, do not panic, and to escape the pull of the rip current you should always swim parallel to shore and not try to fight the current. Once you no longer feel the pull you should swim back into shore (rip currents do not pull you under). People often make the mistake of swimming straight in against the current, getting tired and then beginning to panic. If you ever find yourself in an uncomfortable situation in the ocean, just wave your arms, and the surf rescue technician will assist you to safety. However, when people ignore our plea to never enter the ocean when the beach patrol is off-duty, they are making a potentially deadly mistake. The beach patrol is on duty daily in the summer from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.”
For more information on rip currents, see page 76.