Near-Drowning Teen Remains Hospitalized
The Flushing teenager who nearly drowned in Rockaway Park last Thursday afternoon remained hospitalized this week but his family declined to comment on his condition, according to a spokesperson for Schneider Children’s Hospital.
Aaron Cheung, 15, was transported to Schneider in critical condition last Thursday night – just hours after he was pulled from the ocean and airlifted to Peninsula Hospital Center. Cheung nearly lost his life after he and two friends, Jason Xia, 16, of Woodhaven and Kevin Luke, 17, of Bayside, went for a swim in the deceivingly calm water off Beach 123 Street.
It was perhaps the best beach day since city lifeguards went off duty on Labor Day. The skies were sunny and clear and the temperature reached 80 degrees. Cheung and his friends had off from public school for Rosh Hashanah. They came to Rockaway and ventured into the ocean, despite being weak swimmers.
Rescuers said the three teens got into trouble at about 4:20 p.m. Luke was able to get out safely on his own but Xia got stuck in the current and Cheung, the stronger swimmer, tried to help him, police said. The two teens were pulled from shore. Cheung’s body tired and he slipped beneath the surface of the water.
Commotion broke out on the sand where there were a handful of other beachgoers scattered along the shore. Summer lifeguard Kristin Bledsoe and off-duty firefighter Brian Sullivan took to the water with boogie boards – Bledsoe, who was heralded a “Beach Angel” by the Daily News, reportedly felt Cheung with her feet and brought him back above the water. She and Sullivan, with help from firefighters from Ladder 137/Engine 268, who responded immediately with rescue surfboards, were able to bring the two teens ashore.
Xia was shaken and shivering but conscious. He was carried to a waiting ambulance and was taken to Peninsula Hospital in stable condition. Cheung, however, fared much worse. Witnesses said he was beneath the water for several minutes, but there was no credible report of exactly how long he went without oxygen. Rescuers tried to resuscitate Cheung on the beach but sources said his pulse and heartbeat wasn’t established until after he reached the hospital.
Xia and Luke could not be reached for comment.