2007-06-22 / Front Page

Rocky Rescue For Beach 77 St. Lifeguards

By Howard Schwach

Five daring lifeguards teamed up on Sunday to save the life of a man who hit his head on the rocks and was submerged for a short time.

Sources said lifeguard Dillon O'Toole, was on the chair at Beach 77 Street at about 5 p.m. on Sunday, when he noticed a man dangerously close to the rock jetty that juts out into the ocean.

O'Toole blew his whistle twice, a source said, waving to the man to move away from the rocks.

When the man, later identified as Jose Sims, failed to move away, O'Toole called for help and went into the water after him.

There were reportedly four other lifeguards covering two full bays that day, a violation of the rule that calls for a total of three lifeguards for each of two chairs on the bay, and a seventh on the third chair.

At O'Toole's call, the other four, identified as Jenna Boggiano, Pamela Kellar, Kristen Brady and Monica Savage, went into the water to assist.

Sources say that O'Toole was knocked back by a large wave near the rocks and that Sims attempted to climb out of the water onto the rocks, at which point he slipped and hit his head, causing him to disappear below the raging waves breaking on the rocks.

Savage and another, unidentified lifeguard quickly reached the area where the man had disappeared.

They found Sims by diving and reaching around with their hands. The two lifeguards pulled him up on the rocks and then carried him to the beach, where an ambulance manned by EMT's Yonatan Klein and Jacques Lavaud were ready to receive the man.

Klein, who watched the rescue from the boardwalk, praised the lifeguards.

"They did an excellent job, a professional job," Klein said. "When they brought him out, he was unconscious and unresponsive. He wasn't breathing. He would have died if they hadn't pulled him out when they did."

The EMT's stabilized Sims and gave him oxygen. They transported him to the Jamaica Hospital Trauma Center, where he remains in critical but stable condition.

"By the time we got to Jamaica, he was coming around, throwing up water and talking a bit," Klein said.

A young lifeguard who attended the Queens Civic Congress meeting at PS 114 earlier this week told Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski that fewer lifeguards were being assigned to guard the beachfront in an attempt to open more beaches.

"We are being spread very thin," the lifeguard, who asked not to be identified because she feared retribution, told the commissioner. "This is becoming a very dangerous situation."

One lifeguard who was on the beach when Sims was rescued and who also asked for anonymity, echoed that report.

"We had more lifeguards earlier that morning [on Sunday]," the lifeguard told The Wave. "They were detailed to other areas just before noon. That left us really shorthanded."

The Parks Department Press office declined to supply any information for this story, including the names of the lifeguards involved in the rescue or the name of the victim who nearly drowned

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with the city it's all about the money,but if someone dies they will put extra lifeguards on each beach but as soon as all calms down they will pull them off the beaches again to save money.

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