2006-07-06 / Editorial/Opinion

Opinions A Grim Reminder That Ocean Currents Are Dangerous

As if we needed another reminder that the ocean currents that are rife on Rockaway beaches are dangerous, an 18-year-old Brooklyn man was swept away from the beach at Riis Park on Sunday. Determined efforts by police and fire units, both from the city and the National Park Service, were to no avail. The youth was lost in the raging rip currents that can pull even strong swimmers out to sea. Look at the list of those who have drowned over the past several years and some major similarities will be evident. First of all, none of those who drowned were from Rockaway. It is clear that Rockaway residents know of the danger that the ocean can bring, particularly in the late afternoon, when the current is running rough and due west. Secondly, while it was not the case in the latest drowning, the great majority of those who died did so when the lifeguards were not on duty. In Sunday's drowning, the NPS lifeguards went into the water immediately, but the teen was already gone with the current. Third of all, many of those who drown have spent the day at the beach drinking beer. Mixing alcohol and swift currents is a prescription for disaster. Lastly, many of those who drown do not know how to swim but wander into the current in any case, sure in their belief that water-borne disasters are for others and not themselves. Unfortunately, there is not much that government can do to stop the disasters, short of educating everybody to the danger of going near the water when the lifeguards are not on duty, if they have been drinking, if they do not know how to swim, etc. In fact, those are lessons for swimmers and boaters alike. The water surrounding Rockaway can be dangerous. It should be treated as such even by competent swimmers.

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