OCEAN CITY — A tragic loss of a 45-year-old man on Saturday following a rescue from a rip current on the beach at 139th Street re-emphasized the importance of swimming near a lifeguard, particularly with the Beach Patrol’s ranks dwindling heading into September.
The Ocean City Beach Patrol was extremely busy on Saturday with over 350 rescues recorded due to strong rip currents. The combination of a big late August Saturday beach crowd and dangerous rip currents led to hundreds of rescues up and down the beach, one of which met with tragic results.
On Saturday afternoon at 139th Street, a 45-year man was in thigh to waist-deep water when a flash rip current began to pull him into deeper water. An ex-lifeguard who happened to be body surfing nearby assisted the victim initially while two on-duty OCBP lifeguards jumped in to respond as well.
During the rescue, the victim appeared to lose consciousness, but never submerged, according to the OCBP. The guards were able to pull the victim from the water and began CPR. The lifeguards continued lifesaving efforts until Ocean City Emergency Services arrived and transported him. However, during transport the victim suffered a cardiac arrest or other medical episode and he was pronounced deceased at the hospital.
As rip currents appeared up and down the beach on Saturday, a waist-deep restriction was put in place by the Ocean City Beach Patrol. Again, over 350 rescues were recorded during the busy Saturday, at least one more of which was serious. In another incident, a swimmer rescued near the Inlet required CPR although there has been no update on that victim’s condition.
Rip currents are dangerous even during peak summer times when the OCBP is fully staffed and each street is guarded. However, the dangers increase exponentially when rip currents combined with a scaled down Beach Patrol heading into September and the offseason, according to Ocean City Communications Director Jessica Waters.
“Throughout the summer, we stress the importance of swimming when the lifeguards are on duty and asking about the current conditions of the water before entering to swim,” she said. “With many of our seasonal employees gone for the summer, now more than ever it is important for beachgoers to swim in front of a lifeguard. It might mean walking a block extra on the beach, but a few extra steps near the lifeguard could save your life if you are caught in a rip current.”