Recent drownings prompt calls for stepped up safety at NYC beaches

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Wednesday, July 10, 2024
Drownings prompt calls for stepped up safety at NYC beaches
Janice Yu has the latest on the call for increased lifeguard hours after four drownings so far this year.

ROCKAWAY BEACH, Queens (WABC) -- Our current stretch of dangerous heat has many New York City residents looking for relief along the city's shorelines.

But with a number of drownings recently reported at NYC beaches from the Rockaway Peninsula to Coney Island, there are also growing calls for more safety.

Drownings at city beaches so far this summer have already equaled last summer's total. Among the victims are two sisters who went for a swim off Coney Island Beach after hours and vanished.

Their bodies were pulled from the water just hours later on Friday night.

"We are all having flashbacks of the last time we saw one of the sisters," said Malik Muffa. "And it was right here in the community lowered down in the grave. It's very devastating."

The use of drone technology is just one of the ways agencies like New York City Parks and the FDNY are patrolling the water. One rescue happened just this Sunday at Rockaway Beach. The fire department's robotics unit captured a number of lifeguards in the water working to help swimmers to safety.

Drone video shows one person waiting for help, hanging onto rocks as waves crash. It also shows lifeguards taking at least two people away in stretchers.

According to FDNY, drones cover Rockaway Beach from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. at Beach 9th street to Beach 149th.

Leaders from Brooklyn and Queens are calling on the mayor and parks department to improve safety at city beaches, and they suggest extending operating hours. But Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue says that's not an option.

"It is a really long day for our lifeguards, so we're not able to extend hours, especially at our beaches," she said, "because if you think about it, they're out in the hot sun the whole day, managing crowds - thousands of people using the beaches - so they need a rest, too."

There have also been calls for better staffing. Right now, beaches are open from 10 a.m. to 6 pm, and the recent drownings happened after lifeguards were gone for the day.

Once the lifeguards leave, the NYPD has their drones up until 7 p.m. and the FDNY has its up until 8 p.m. to help spot swimmers in danger.

"We have to continue to make sure we educate parents and loved ones when is the time to be in the water," said Mayor Eric Adams We don't want people in the water when lifeguards are not on duty."

The parks department says it needs more than 1,000 lifeguards to start running two shifts.

Meanwhile in New Jersey, the dangerous heat had Copa America organizers at East Rutherford's MetLife Stadium implementing measures to keep fans and players safe.

CeFaan Kim has more from East Rutherford.

Tuesday night's Copa American semifinal between Argentina and Canada doesn't begin until 8 p.m., but excitement has been building for hours along with the heat.

Some fans headed for the shade, while others broke out the umbrellas. The Sosa Family had a full set up, with a tent, chairs and turbo fans hooked up to their SUV.

"Yes, we can make it happen. Yes, it's worth it -- 100% to come see an Argentina game," said Willie Sosa.

The hot weather of course was not just slowing down fans. MetLife is an open stadium, so the sweltering heat was taking a toll on the pitch too.

With safety in mind, organizers implemented new rules. Cooling breaks of 90 seconds to three minutes will be go into effect if the heat and humidity index exceeds 90 degrees, plus one-minute drink breaks for players. Organizers also recommended medical screenings to identify players at risk of heat stroke.

Organizers of the tournament cited climate change as a "critical issue" that poses "significant threats to players."

RELATED | Queens leaders call for new swim safety measures amid apparent drownings at Rockaway Beach

Anthony Carlo has the latest.


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