(Editor’s Note: The following is a series on the men and women who have spent their summers protecting all those who came to Ocean City for fun and safe vacation.)
OCEAN CITY — Mike Burke was one of those larger than life people you meet on rare occasions. He joined the patrol in 1981 and quickly stood out. With his thick black mustache and black curly hair, he reminded a lot of people of television star Tom Selleck.
Some even gave him the unofficial nickname of “Burkem P.I.”. He didn’t mind. In fact, he embraced it, often showing up at OCBP meetings or out on the town dressed in brightly colored Hawaiian shirts.
He appreciated the humor in life. But what he did take seriously was the beach patrol. Burke spent a lot of his Ocean City Beach Patrol life downtown in the heavily populated areas. Thousands crowded his beach every day and mass rescues were common. One day, a husband and wife got caught in a rip current and shot out 250 yards in a matter of minutes.
“It looked like a commercial … flailing arms and a lot of screaming,” Burke recalled. “I got to them just as the husband says ‘save her’ and he goes under.”
Burke quickly handed off his buoy to the woman as he went diving after the man. A few seconds later, he was up, wrestling the exhausted victim onto the buoy with his wife. He yelled at both to, “hold on, we’re all gonna make it.”
Burke got the couple out of the breakers and back up to the beach.
“After they laid on the sand for a couple minutes, I said ‘stay safe’ and got up to head back to the stand,” Burke said.
Business as usual.
The beach life never got old for Burke. After leaving Ocean City and the beach patrol, he started moving west, far west. He now resides in Hawaii and is still living large.