Nearly a dozen people have drowned in New Jersey and New York in the last 10 days, a jolting and tragic reminder of potential summer dangers made that much more alarming by a national lifeguard shortage that is stoking fresh safety concerns.
At least half of the 10 drownings reported since June 6 across the two states have involved victims aged 20 or younger. All but one of them happened in New Jersey, where another two young lives -- a 17- and a 20-year-old -- were claimed a day ago.
The victims in the latest case -- a 17-year-old and a 20-year-old -- disappeared in a popular Morris County lake known as Mine Hill Beach on Green Road late Tuesday afternoon. Cops were told the two went in the water at the sand pits and never resurfaced. Tangled vegetation within the lake complicated the search effort.
One body was recovered hours into the search. The other was found a short time later.
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Also on Tuesday, authorities recovered the body of a 59-year-old woman whose husband had reported her missing the night before. He told cops she went into the water at Ocean County's Island Beach State Park and didn't resurface.
Her identity hasn't been released at this point either. The same day she vanished but hours earlier, police say a man thought to be in his 20s drowned in Belmar, where a group of distressed swimmers was reported by the Eighth Avenue beach jetty area.
Last week saw extensive tragedy in the water, too. On June 8, two brothers drowned at a Bayonne school pool during a community swim event. Three lifeguards were on duty at the time, but officials say 19-year-old Chu Ming Zheng and 16-year-old Jack Jiang, were in a separate pool in the same building, not the ones lifeguards were watching.
Around the same time that day but in Wildwood, a 45-year-old man was spotted floating unconscious in the water. He was pulled to shore, where people tried to render aid, but the man, identified as Williams Pathy, was pronounced dead at a hospital.
The prior afternoon, on June 7, a 53-year-old man drowned while swimming in the waters off Wildwood Crest Beach. That came a day after Manchester Township Police responding to a trio of struggling swimmers confirmed one drowned -- a 35-year-old.
On June 10, 13-year-olds Ryan Wong and Daniel Persaud were with a group of friends along Jamaica Bay when the two fell into the water and were swept away. The two were pulled into the rough currents, which a nearby sign warns of along with sudden drop-offs, and their bodies were later found in the water. Those who frequent the beach say that not many people swim there, and it's more popular with fishermen and kite surfers.
There have also been near-drownings as well. The family of a Long Island toddler who was pulled unconscious from a backyard pool Tuesday evening hopes the child will be OK. The 2-year-old was last said to be in serious condition at a hospital. His relatives own the home that had the pool.
The developments come amid a national lifeguard shortage that just saw New York City forced to close some popular summer swim programs at its outdoor pools. Locals and people who live in other big shore and pool spots across the country worry there won't be enough eyes on beaches and pools this summer because of the struggle to hire.
COVID lockdowns delayed some training courses, but those who are trained are looking for better-paying jobs.
With water-related issues expected only to increase as the summer wears on, public health and emergency officials are reminding people of core safety strategies.
The American Red Cross provided these tips both for those going swimming, and those in charge of keeping an eye on those in the water.
- Provide constant supervision for children and non-swimmers
- Learn to swim — it's unclear if all the victims in recent days knew how to swim and how well
- Look for lifeguards
- Swim with a friend who stays close
- For non-experienced swimmers, wear a life jacket
- Learn CPR