2006-08-04 / Community

Drownings At Riis Park, Jamaica Bay Bring Total to Five

By Brian Magoolaghan

Other day-care children wait as rescuers search for their missing friend, Shamel Johnson, who drowned. Photo by Doug MacleodOther day-care children wait as rescuers search for their missing friend, Shamel Johnson, who drowned. Photo by Doug Macleod

Two people drowned in separate incidents last week at Jacob Riis Park and Floyd Bennett Field, bringing the number of local drownings to five since the middle of May.

A 13-year-old boy who went swimming in Jamaica Bay at about 6 p.m. last Saturday lost his life after he was overpowered by the tide current. Shamel Johnson, who was on a day-camp outing to Floyd Bennett Field with about 20 other youngsters, was missing underwater for about 30 minutes when a rescue boat pulled him onboard. The area where he entered the bay was marked with signage that prohibits swimming and wading, and there was no lifeguard present.

Johnson was pronounced dead on arrival at Kings County Hospital.

A 40-year-old Bronx man drowned at about 6:15 p.m. last Thursday after he had trouble in the ocean at Riis Park, police said (story on page 1). Julian Croban had difficulty swimming after being in the water for about five minutes. He had developed a cramp on shore and thought he could work it out in the water, according to a report in the New York Post.

Croban's companion, Yajaira Figueroa Vasquez, 27, witnessed in horror as Croban fought to stay above water.

Rescuers pulled Croban from the water after an intense 20-minute search. CPR was administered as he was rushed to Peninsula Hospital Center. He was pronounced dead at 7 p.m.

Last week's drownings bring the total number of victims to five since the first incident of the season occurred on May 18. In that drowning, a 44-year-old Staten Island man who was not wearing a life preserver fell from his boat near the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge and drowned. A 36-year-old Sleepy Hollow man drowned in Jamaica Bay on June 13 when the boat he was in capsized off Breezy Point. The man couldn't swim and was not wearing a life preserver. An 18-year-old drowned at the beach in Riis Park on July 2 after he got caught in rough surf.

Other parts of Jamaica Bay have also seen deadly incidents as well. A boy riding a personal watercraft in Mill Basin disappeared this season after an accident on the water. The Coast Guard performed an intense search for the boy and called for the assistance of other boaters in the area but the boy was feared drowned after hours passed and he had still not been found.

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