4 Swimmers Drown, 3 Missing in New York Waters

Published July 27, 2008

| Associated Press

Divers searched off Coney Island on Sunday but couldn't find a 10-year-old girl, one of three swimmers still missing from powerful ocean currents at area beaches over the weekend.

Four other people drowned at local beaches Friday and Saturday, authorities said.

"There are strong currents in these waters," said Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Annie Berlin. "It's important for everybody who goes swimming out there to remember that."

The search for the girl was suspended Sunday afternoon pending further developments, the Coast Guard said.

"The Coast Guard along with the New York City police and fire departments and local partners conducted an aggressive shoreline search and have not found the missing swimmer," Coast Guard Cmdr. Gregory Hitchen said.

Police and Coast Guard divers jumped off search boats in the waters off the Brooklyn beach Sunday, a day after the 10-year-old girl was pulled under by currents while swimming. The girl, Akira Johnson, was swimming with her cousin Tyriek Currie, also 10. The boy was pulled from the water.

The children's grandfather Charles German went to the beach Sunday to watch the search effort and said the family was doing as well as could be expected.

In Long Beach on Long Island on Saturday evening, a man died after he was spotted struggling about 150 yards from shore, said police Lt. Bruce Meyer. Lifeguards were off duty but rushed to the beach and reached the unconscious 29-year-old man within minutes. Rescuers and hospital staffers were unable to revive him, Meyer said.

"We have a problem with people coming down after hours," said Paul Gillespie, chief of lifeguards for Long Beach. "They do not know the water here or they're very weak swimmers."

Another man drowned and a teenager disappeared Friday on Long Beach while playing football in about 3 to 5 feet of water after lifeguard hours, officials said.

A 42-year-old man died Saturday afternoon after swimming at a beach near the ocean in East Quogue in Suffolk County, said Southampton Town police.

Several other swimmers were sucked out to sea on Friday, authorities said.

The Coast Guard called off its search Saturday for one of them, a 23-year-old man swept away off Jacob Riis Park in Queens as a friend tried to rescue him. The beach is in an area known for strong undertows and rip tides, the Coast Guard said.

Another swimmer, a man in his 20s, drowned Friday afternoon at Sandy Bar Beach on Long Island's East End, authorities said.

With stronger and more frequent rip currents possible over the weekend, "only experienced surf swimmers should enter the waters," said National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Connolly.

The rough seas were caused by a strong storm system that brought 8-foot waves to the area earlier this week, Connolly said. The weather service monitors offshore conditions for swimmers but does not track trends.

Gillespie, the Long Beach lifeguards chief, advised never to swim against a rip current.

"If you get pulled out with a rip current, what you should do is either swim to the left or to the right," Gillespie said.

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