2009-07-10 / Front Page

Bay Trench Claims Life

Water Rescues Mark Weekend
By Howard Schwach

Seventeen people have died in the waters around Rockaway in the last decade, the latest during the July 4 weekend, when an angler was pulled into a deep trench in Jamaica Bay and drowned.

Two teens clinging to an overturned kayak were rescued from Jamaica Bay off Breezy Point on Sunday when they were thrown into the water by the wake of a passing powerboat. Two teens clinging to an overturned kayak were rescued from Jamaica Bay off Breezy Point on Sunday when they were thrown into the water by the wake of a passing powerboat. According to official statistics, eleven bathers drowned on Rockaway's ocean beaches since 2000, three more lost their lives on the ocean beaches of Riis Park and an additional three died in the waters of Jamaica Bay.

Over this year's July 4 weekend, there were five water related events that resulted in several people rescued and one dead.

The drowning incident involved two fishermen who waded into the bay at the south end of the Joseph P. Addabbo Bridge, which separates Broad Channel from the mainland and Howard Beach.

Police records identify the two men as Mario Acatilta, 19, a Mexican immigrant, and his 28-year-old cousin, Jesus Gonzales.

The two men were wading in the bay at 3:30 p.m. on July 5 when they reportedly stepped off into a 25-foot sinkhole in the bay bottom.

Gonzalez was rescued by Cesar Menses, 39, a former lifeguard, who saw the incident and plunged into the cold water.

"The problem is that there was a deep drop right there," a man who was fishing next to the two told reporters. "It happened so fast that nobody could help them. They were yelling, 'Help me, help me.' "

A park ranger stationed at the National Park Service site performed CPR on Gonzalez and he was then taken to Jamaica Hospital, where he reportedly remains in stable condition.

Police, fire, Coast Guard and United States Park Police units searched for hours in the waters of Jamaica Bay looking for the missing man. His body was finally pulled from the bay at about 5:30 p.m., as his anguished relatives looked on.

Local politicians called for signs that warn of the dangers of swimming and wading in the seemingly-placid bay water.

"Many longtime residents know of the danger in those waters," said City Council candidate Frank Gulluscio. "We need to make sure there is adequate signage in Jamaica Bay, not only that swimming is prohibited but that dangerous tides and crevices can pose a threat."

The drowning at the bridge was the only deadly event of the weekend, but not the only water event that drew first responders.

There were several other water rescues over the hot holiday weekend, and the res- cue events kept police, fire and Coast Guard units on an alert status for the entire weekend.

On July 5 at about 11 a.m. an unidentified resident of Beach 67 Street and Bayfield Avenue backed his car into Jamaica Bay, but police officers and firefighters quickly pulled him from his automobile.

He was transported to the Peninsula Hospital Center, where he was reportedly treated and released.

On July 4, a teenager riding a jet ski in Jamaica Bay struck an object in the water and was ejected from the watercraft.

He was picked up by a boater as rescue units from both the NYPD's harbor and aviation units responded.

Both he and his jet ski were taken to the boat ramp at Beach Channel High School, where he was examined by EMS workers and released.

On Sunday, July 5, two teens riding in Jamaica Bay in a kayak right off the shore of Breezy Point were thrown into the water when a large power boat sped by.

The two were quickly pulled from the water by lifeguards for the Breezy Point Cooperative. Both refused medical attention.

A number of other boaters whose crafts were disabled or in danger of swamping were rescued over the weekend as well, with no injuries reported in any of the events.

Officials say that at least 32 people have died on New York City beaches over the past ten years, most of them teenagers and the great majority of those did not know how to swim.

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