Water Rescues Eclipse Summer's End
The lifeguards were officially offduty for the season at 6:00 p.m. on September 1. That however, as in years past, didn't stop people from trying to grab one last piece of summer, even without lifeguards on duty.
Six swimmers, in separate incidents over the two day span of Monday's Labor Day holiday and Tuesday, nearly lost their lives as they dared to test the unpredictable Atlantic Ocean currents off Rockaway Beach.
The lifeguards did rescue one man on Labor Day, but the other five victims were all aided by some heroic civilians who rushed into the ocean each time to save the victims.
Monday, September 1, 2:30 p.m.
Beach 102 Street
The most dramatic of the water rescues this week occurred while lifeguards were still on duty this Labor Day. A 74-year-old ex-marine and experienced swimmer, Frank Coffey, was struck in the head at 2:30 p.m. by a powerful wave and lost consciousness. His body was floating lifelessly on the water when lifeguards rushed in and pulled his body onto shore. Paramedics performed CPR and were able to resuscitate Coffey. He is recovering and in stable condition at Peninsula Hospital Center.
Eyewitness Louis Scandole of Staten Island remembers speaking with Coffey moments before he disappeared into the currents. He says they made quick conversation about the beautiful ocean and then Coffey went for a swim.
"I noticed he wasn't there anymore, but I didn't think anything of it," he said. "I didn't want myself to be the last person he said something to on this earth." Scandole described Coffey as purple in color and says it was a scary moment. "He was under there a long while," he said. "I am glad that he will be ok though." Monday, September 1, 6:05 p.m. Beach 73 Street
Witnesses say the man was pulled from the water by a family relative and brought back to shore safely at 6:05 p.m. Authorities arrived on the scene and he was brought to Peninsula Hospital Center after experiencing dizziness and headaches. He is also in stable condition at the hospital.
Tuesday, September 2, 4:20 p.m. Beach 84 Street
Beachgoers continued to test the waters the following day and as the rough currents of the afternoon tides came ashore, three more people were nearly lost.
However, thanks to the heroics of two men and the help of neighboring surfers, the swimmers were pulled to safety.
Cousins Samantha Rivera, 14, and Sean Acevedo, 18, were trying to get out of the water when they suddenly felt like they couldn't move. Once the two began screaming, Samantha's mother, Irma, knew her daughter was in trouble.
"We all rushed into the water on pure adrenaline," Werner said. "It was an
exciting way to end the day, and I am just glad to see everyone is doing ok." Rollins, a longtime friend of Werner, says they were packing up to go home when they heard the screams and saw two people in the water. "I'm not the best swimmer; I took my boogie board out and put the guy on the board. I didn't want to see anyone drown." Irma says the men are angels for saving her family. "I don't know what I can do to repay them," she said. "Everybody chipped in to help. I was terrified, but I will never again go in the water without lifeguards." Surfers also rescued another man who was drowning at the same time a few blocks away. He was taken to Peninsula Hospital and is in stable condition.Tuesday, September 2, 5:30 p.m. Beach 95 Street
"I was on the beach talking about what had just happened, when I saw this guy struggling in the water," Flaherty said. "I got up and started running to the guy with one other surfer and another with a boogie board."
His friend and fellow surfer, Rich Hunter, was showing Flaherty how to rescue someone with their surfboards, when he immediately got the chance to learn,
hands-on. "When we got to him he was speaking," Flaherty said. "We tried to keep his head above water and keep him from drowning, but he was beginning to succumb to the waters." Flaherty described the man as barely conscious when they brought him to shore. He seemed dizzy and disoriented and was brought to Peninsula Hospital Center for evaluation.