Search over for latest rip current victim

July 28, 2008 3:08:38 PM PDT
The search for a 10-year-old girl has been called off in Brooklyn.The search began Saturday, when lifeguards pulled the girl's cousin to safety in Coney Island. But they could not find Akira Johnson.

Four people died over the weekend and at least three others have been rescued.

Authorities warn that with the strong rip currents, only experienced swimmers should go in the water.

"There are strong currents in these waters," said Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Annie Berlin. "It's important for everybody who goes swimming out there to remember that."

Police and Coast Guard divers jumped off search boats in the waters off the Brooklyn beach Sunday, a day after the 10-year-old girl was pulled under by currents while swimming.

The children's grandfather, Charles German, went to the beach Sunday to watch the search effort and said the family was doing as well as could be expected.

In Long Beach on Long Island on Saturday evening, a man died after he was spotted struggling about 150 yards from shore, said police Lt. Bruce Meyer. Lifeguards were off duty but rushed to the beach and reached the unconscious 29-year-old man within minutes.

Rescuers and hospital staffers were unable to revive him, Meyer said.

"We have a problem with people coming down after hours," said Paul Gillespie, chief of lifeguards for Long Beach. "They do not know the water here or they're very weak swimmers."

Another man drowned and a teenager disappeared Friday on Long Beach while playing football in about 3 to 5 feet of water after lifeguard hours, officials said.

A 42-year-old man died Saturday afternoon after swimming at a beach near the ocean in East Quogue in Suffolk County, said Southampton Town police.

Several other swimmers were sucked out to sea on Friday, authorities said.

The Coast Guard called off its search Saturday for one of them, a 23-year-old man swept away off Jacob Riis Park in Queens as a friend tried to rescue him. The beach is in an area known for strong undertows and rip tides, the Coast Guard said.

Another swimmer, a man in his 20s, drowned Friday afternoon at Sandy Bar Beach on Long Island's East End, authorities said.

With stronger and more frequent rip currents possible over the weekend, "only experienced surf swimmers should enter the waters," said National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Connolly.

The rough seas were caused by a strong storm system that brought 8-foot waves to the area earlier this week, Connolly said. The weather service monitors offshore conditions for swimmers but does not track trends.

Gillespie, the Long Beach lifeguards chief, advised never to swim against a rip current.

"If you get pulled out with a rip current, what you should do is either swim to the left or to the right," Gillespie said.


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