2005-07-29 / Front Page

Feared Drowned On Beach 120 Street

Units from the NYPD and FDNY assist lifeguards and other Parks Department employees in searching for the body of a man, tentatively identified as Nelson Graciano, in the surf off Beach 120 Street on Wednesday afternoon. The search was called off shortly after 5:30 p.m. due to heavy surf and sea conditions. At left is Captain Walter Salowski, CO of the 101 Pct.Units from the NYPD and FDNY assist lifeguards and other Parks Department employees in searching for the body of a man, tentatively identified as Nelson Graciano, in the surf off Beach 120 Street on Wednesday afternoon. The search was called off shortly after 5:30 p.m. due to heavy surf and sea conditions. At left is Captain Walter Salowski, CO of the 101 Pct. Police and firefighters searched for several hours on Wednesday for the body of a man last seen struggling in the surf at Beach 120 Street.

Three beachgoers reported shortly before 2 p.m. that the man, who was swimming alone on a closed section of the beach, appeared to be in trouble and then that he disappeared under the waves about fifty feet from shore. The man reportedly never surfaced.

Police officer helps NYPD diver suit up. Several others suited up simultaneously nearby along the shoreline.Police officer helps NYPD diver suit up. Several others suited up simultaneously nearby along the shoreline. Kathleen McDonagh, an eyewitness, said that the man had gone into the water at Beach 119 Street, where a lifeguard was on duty and was carried westward by the current.

“He was really starting to struggle bad,” she said of the man. “I saw him go under and then come up again. I ran to a lifeguard and told him. The lifeguard stood up on his chair and said, “I got him, I got him.”

Raging surf rebuffs lifeguards as they race into the ocean.
Raging surf rebuffs lifeguards as they race into the ocean. McDonagh said that the lifeguard did not blow his whistle to summon help until later.

“It was really rough, a very strong current, and I saw a hand come up and that was it,” she added. “There were no lifeguards from Beach 120 Street to Beach 123 Street. All of those beaches were closed.”

Police closed the beach and asked all of the beachgoers present to remove their belongings. They found a pile of clothing on the beach that was not claimed by any of the onlookers, but police officials declined to speculate on Thursday morning as to the identity of the missing man. “We found an ID on the beach, but we can’t assume it’s from a drowning victim,” a spokesperson for the department’s Deputy Commissioner for Public Information (DCPI) said. “Right now, we can’t even speculate on whether or not there was actually a drowning victim.”

Lifeguards took to the water quickly. They went into formation and swam from west to east to feel for the victim.Lifeguards took to the water quickly. They went into formation and swam from west to east to feel for the victim. Other police sources, however, said, that the man had been tentatively identified from the identification as Nelson Graciano, 24. No address was provided for Graciano.

Swarms of lifeguards, who performed an exhaustive search, exit the ocean after being called out by supervisors.
Swarms of lifeguards, who performed an exhaustive search, exit the ocean after being called out by supervisors. An official for the Parks Department said that there was no lifeguard posted on that beach on Wednesday and that “No Swimming” signs and a large red flag marked the beach as closed.

While police and fire department divers searched the raging surf for a body, helicopters and harbor units joined in the search, which was called off due to extremely rough seas at about 5:30 p.m. Police say that they are investigating the whereabouts of the person whose ID was found on the beach.

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