2009-09-04 / Letters

Sanders Overlooks the Real Causes of Drowning Deaths

Dear Editor,

I am completely outraged by the August 21 article in The Wave entitled "Councilman Sanders Says Lifeguard Deployment is Racist."

There have been seven drowning deaths so far this year on Rockaway's beaches; four on city beaches, two at Riis Park, and one at the Surf Club in Breezy Point. Three of the four drowning deaths did not occur on the east end where Councilman Sanders is complaining there are not enough guards. Sanders seems to have overlooked another factor mentioned in The Wave. "The common thread that runs through all the drowning incidents is that all of them were swimming in unprotected waters, either on beaches that were not open or when lifeguards were not on duty."

Lifeguards are on duty from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but three of the drowning deaths Sanders mentioned took place at 8:20 a.m., 7 p.m., and 3 a.m. Another took place on an unprotected beach two blocks away from an area with lifeguards on duty. None of the drowning deaths took place where lifeguards were present.

All of these drowning deaths are terrible tragedies and the families of these victims will never be the same. However, it has become apparent that people often blatantly disregard rules and regulations which have been put in place for good reasons. Unfortunately, some people pay for this disregard with their lives. The ocean is treacherous and Rockaway is known for its dangerous riptides.

It would be wonderful if the entire peninsula could have full lifeguard staffing from sunup to sundown but this is impossible. Even if funding were available to pay their salaries, there are not enough people willing to sacrifice their own lives everyday, every summer, to fill this need.

The most we can hope for is that the rest of us can learn the painful lessons taught by these senseless deaths. There are dire consequences for dangerous actions. If a beach is closed or no lifeguards are on duty, move to another beach where the waters are protected. If it's before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m., stay out of the water. Anyone who chooses to disregard these guidelines had better be a superb swimmer accustomed to swimming in our waters and understand that they are risking their lives. Even excellent swimmers can be caught in a riptide and pulled out to sea.

For Councilman Sanders to try to inflame the public by attempting to put a racial spin on this issue is deplorable. I work at one of Rockaway's hospitals and continually strive to be colorblind as do virtually all of the individuals I work with. We are one community. Councilman Sanders should spend a little more time working to promote racial harmony and less time looking for imaginary racist overtones in situations where they only exist in his own tiny mind.

BILL FOEHN

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