Summer’s Third Drowning Occurred While Guards Off Duty

Summer’s Third Drowning Occurred While Guards Off Duty
Members of the Ocean City Beach Patrol and Ocean City Fire Department are pictured on Tuesday evening searching for the missing swimmer. The man was found 13 minutes after the initial emergency call, according to the city. Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY — An all-too-familiar scene repeated itself this week when an 18-year-old Manassas, Va. man drowned in the ocean near the Inlet after getting caught in a rip current and swept under a wave around 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

Shortly after 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Ocean City Communications received a call for a swimmer in distress in the ocean near the Inlet. First-responders were immediately dispatched to the area including Ocean City Fire Department rescue swimmers. In addition, several off-duty Ocean City Beach Patrol officers were first on the scene, arriving only minutes after the call.

It’s important to note the Beach Patrol had signed off for the day about a half an hour earlier and the swimmer became distressed at a time when the OCBP was no longer on duty, although Beach Patrol officers continue to patrol the beach on a limited basis after their regular hours. According to witnesses, the victim, later identified as Jose Maudiel Hernandez, 18, of Manassas, Va., appeared to be stuck in a rip current and have having difficulty getting back to shore. Witnesses said at one point, the victim was overtaken by a wave, submerged and did not resurface.

OCBP Surf Rescue Technicians and OCFD rescue swimmers began a search of the area and located Hernandez approximately 13 minutes after the initial call. The victim was treated on scene by EMS personnel and was transported to AGH where he was pronounced deceased.

“Despite an extraordinary effort by our public safety personnel, including our Beach Patrol and Fire Department rescue swimmers, the lifesaving measures after yesterday’s water rescue were unsuccessful,” said Ocean City Communications Manager Jessica Waters. “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.”

Tuesday’s drowning was the latest in a series of water-related deaths this summer in the resort. Around 4:30 p.m. on June 2, three non-swimmers entered the ocean off 137th Street and quickly became distressed in a rip current. Beach Patrol SRTs entered the water and quickly rescued two of the swimmers in trouble, but the third man, a 17-year-old from Montgomery County could not be located for about 30 minutes and was later pronounced dead. The incident marked the first drowning in the ocean while the Beach Patrol was on duty since 2007.

Less than two weeks later, an unidentified 17-year-old male got caught in a rip current just off the beach at 92nd Street and quickly became submerged. An OCBP SRT was the first to enter the water in search of the missing swimmer and was soon joined by multiple public safety entities. The water rescue attempt included roughly 30 rescue swimmers from the OCBP, the Ocean City Fire Department, the Ocean City Police Department, the Coast Guard and the DNR. A Maryland State Police helicopter joined the search from the air, as did a private single-engine aircraft participating in the ongoing Ocean City Air Show.

About 45 minutes later, the submerged swimmer was found and carried to the beach where he was treated on the scene by Ocean City EMS. The victim was transported to AGH where he was pronounced deceased.

Later in June, an unidentified victim suffered neck and back injuries in a heavy shore break and was found face down in the surf. The Beach Patrol stabilized the unconscious victim with a neck brace and back board and began CPR until EMTs arrived. The victim was transported to PRMC by ambulance but later succumbed to complications related to his injuries.

With the remnants of Tropical Storm Cristobal still churning well off the coast, Ocean City has been experiencing heavy surf and rip currents all week. Although Thursday was expected to see the roughest conditions, the effects of the storm could linger throughout the weekend. To that end, the town of Ocean City and the Beach Patrol were issuing strong warnings to swimmers all week and heading into the holiday weekend.

“As we enter into a busy Labor Day weekend, the Ocean City Beach Patrol reminds beachgoers to check in with the lifeguard on duty every time you come to the beach,” said Waters. “An increase in strong rip currents can be seen on our coast because of tropical storm activity offshore. Beach patrons are reminded that there are swimming restrictions in effect until further notice. Swimmers are asked to remain knee deep in the water or less. Citizens are also strongly encouraged to only swim when lifeguards are on duty.”