2009-08-14 / Front Page

Rip Current Claims Fifth Victim

By Howard Schwach

The rip current that comes roaring westward out of the East Rockaway Inlet has claimed another life, a Queens man who was wading in the ocean at Beach 15 Street around 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

NYPD and Coast Guard units search the waters around Beach 9 Street for the body of Heyward Patterson, who was swimming with friends at 3:20 a.m. when he disappeared under the waves. NYPD and Coast Guard units search the waters around Beach 9 Street for the body of Heyward Patterson, who was swimming with friends at 3:20 a.m. when he disappeared under the waves. Officials say that Heyward "Winky" Patterson, 40, of South Jamaica, his longtime girlfriend, Lisa Dean, and an unidentified friend went to the beach to cool off on a hot, sultry summer night.

Dean and the friend reportedly sat on the beach while Patterson decided to try to cool off by wading out about eight feet into the ocean.

"He was standing there in the water, talking to me," Dean told Daily News reporters Barry Paddock and Carrie Melago. "The next thing I know, he just went down. I heard him say, 'Help,' but I thought he was playing around. I was calling him and calling him, but he never came up."

Curtis Patterson, the missing man's brother, who works in maintenance at a Rockaway school, said that his brother did not know how to swim.

Police Department patrol boats and scuba divers joined Coast Guard units in searching for the missing man for an hour after he was reported missing early on Wednesday morning and then again after sunrise, but came up empty.

Patterson is the sixth person to die in Rockaway waters this summer.

On June 13, Ramon Figero, 35, died at Beach 14 Street when he tried to save a friend from a riptide at Beach 14 Street at about 8:20 a.m., about two hours before the lifeguards came on duty. His body was found two days later a few beaches west of where he disappeared.

On August 1, Daniel O'Neill, 19, was swimming on an unprotected beach at Beach 27 Street when he was taken out to sea by a rip current. He was pulled from the water about 15 minutes later, but was DOA at a local hospital.

On August 3, Michael Mathleson, 56, was swimming on a protected beach at the Breezy Point Surf Club when he was reportedly caught up in a rip current. In fighting the current, he suffered a heart attack and was pronounced DOA at a Staten Island hospital after he was transported there by an NYPD helicopter.

Also on August 3, Anthony Bolden, 21, was swimming at about 8:20 p.m. on an unprotected beach at Riis Park, on the far western end of the peninsula, when he was pulled out to sea by a rip current. His body was recovered from the same beach early in the morning on Wednesday, August 5.

A sixth drowning took place on a Rockaway beach earlier this year, but the medical examiner has yet to determine whether that death is an accident related to ocean currents, a suicide or a homicide.

On May 21, the body of Sirikatha Peiris, 64, of Jamaica was found on the beach at Beach 28 Street, fully clothed, but without shoes. The medical examiner declared the death a drowning two weeks later, but no determination has been made as to the cause of that drowning.

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