2008-08-01 / Front Page

ME ID's Riis Park Floater

By Howard Schwach

The body found floating off the beachfront of Riis Park on Monday has been positively identified as Devon Flanders, a young Brooklyn father who went swimming at the federal park at 9 p.m. on Friday night, hours after all of the lifeguards had gone for the day.

Federal Park Police and NYPD officers wait with ambulances at the former Coast Guard Station in Breezy Point, where the recovered body was brought on Monday. Federal Park Police and NYPD officers wait with ambulances at the former Coast Guard Station in Breezy Point, where the recovered body was brought on Monday. The body was plucked from the water and brought by United States Park Police launch to the former Coast Guard Station at Breezy Point after an NYPD helicopter patrolling the beachfront spotted the body about 150 yards offshore.

At the time of the recovery, Congressman Anthony Weiner was on the Riis Park boardwalk for a press conference announcing additional money to hire lifeguards for the federal beach facility.

When helicopters and police launches appeared over his shoulder, reporters quickly lost interest in what Weiner had to say and he cancelled the conference out of deference to the family of the dead man.

Devon Flanders in a family photograph. Devon Flanders in a family photograph. Police say that Flanders, 22, an immigrant from Trinidad, disap- peared while swimming with a friend at just after 9 p.m. on July 25.

Eyewitnesses told The Wave that the night was pitch dark and that the waves were running high when Flanders, who was reportedly a strong swimmer, and his unidentified friend entered the water.

After a short time, however, officials say, some of their friends who remained on the beach noticed that they were in trouble and notified the 911 emergency system.

Local firefighters responded and pulled the friend from the raging surf, but could not find Flanders.

His family, including his girlfriend, Krystal Waters and their 18-month-old daughter, Deori, waited on Monday afternoon for some word on the fate of Flanders, but a spokesperson for the city's Medical Examiner said that an identification and an autopsy to determine the cause of death would have to wait until Tuesday afternoon.

Experts say that strong winds from the south and the remains of two offshore tropical storms joined forces to create a deadly confluence that created rip currents on Atlantic Ocean beaches.

Reporters from many media outlets were on the boardwalk listening to Congressman Anthony Weiner when the body was discovered. His news conference was quickly cancelled.  Reporters from many media outlets were on the boardwalk listening to Congressman Anthony Weiner when the body was discovered. His news conference was quickly cancelled. "People swimming against these currents get totally surprised and totally worn out," said an Accu-Weather meteorologist. "By the time they realize it, they are far from shore and they can't get back."

Brian Ciemnecki, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said that his agency has been predicting moderate to high-risk rip currents for Atlantic Ocean shores all month.

"To be honest, I don't know if the best swimmer in the world could get out of these rips," Ciemnecki told New York Times reporter Cara Buckley. "The water has a tremendous force behind it. I think that once you get knocked off your feet, it would quickly pull you out. Even strong swimmers are struggling."

Long Beach, Rockaway's neighbor to the east, lost two swimmers and rescued several others in past weeks.

Paul Gillespie, the city's chief lifeguard, told reporters that the surf has been very bad for the past week.

"Most of the veteran guards here tell you that its been bad for a long period of time, probably the worst I've seen."

As with Flanders, the drownings at Long Beach took place after the lifeguards had gone for the day.

Since last Friday afternoon, there was one drowning at Hampton Bays, on Long Island, three at Long Beach, in two separate incidents, one at Jacob Riis Park, and one at Coney Island.

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