Two people have died in the ocean so far this summer while the Ocean City Beach Patrol was on duty, making the 2014 season the first since 2007 when a drowning has occurred when lifeguards were in the stands.
Historically, most drowning incidents in the summer occur before or after the Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) is on duty. Consequently, the two ocean fatalities within a two-week period have been particularly tragic and disturbing.
However, we caution the local and visiting community from raising too many doubts about the effectiveness of the OCBP as a result of these two most recent incidents. There have been some questions raised about the patrol’s effectiveness in light of the two recent deaths, but we think those doubts are off base and believe the OCBP deserves support.
In fact, the number of deaths this summer could easily be higher. For example, in the first fatality earlier this month on 137th Street when an 18-year-old Burtonsville, Md. man died, two others would have likely lost their lives in the ocean if the OCBP was not on duty. All three individuals were reportedly not swimmers and immediately began struggling in the ocean once they lost their footing. A strong rip current quickly worsened their issues.
In the most recent fatality on 92nd Street, alcohol was a contributing factor as well as the fact the 17-year-old man was also not an adept swimmer, according to witnesses.
One death in the ocean is too many, and it’s natural to start to wonder and question what could have been done to prevent them, but we have to remember this is the first time in seven years a drowning has occurred while lifeguards were on duty. That’s an impressive track record, considering the volume of people in the ocean at one time in Ocean City.
The next time you are on the beach in Ocean City look to the north and south and witness the amount of people in the ocean within eye sight. It’s startling to see the masses, particularly when compared to the number of lifeguard stands perched along the shore.
Add to the fact there are some non-swimmers venturing into the ocean without knowledge of currents and general wave awareness and it’s a miracle in our view there are not more ocean fatalities.
There are forces in the world beyond human control, and Mother Nature tops that list. There are times when its power humbles us, and that has more to do with the recent deaths than any sort of alleged ineffectiveness of the OCBP.
What people struggle with in these circumstances is the concept that the deaths are obviously preventable on several fronts. Nobody knows that more than the OCBP, which is a highly trained and professional organization that deserves support, not criticism, in these trying times.