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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

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Incident on Cape May Beach

By Irene Remer, Cape May

To the Editor:

On Saturday, June 16, on the beach at Grant Street (Beach #23) an incident occurred which endangered the safety of my family.

Shortly after 6 p.m., when lifeguards are off duty, a truck owned by Steger Beach Service Inc. entered the beach from the Cove Pavilion area. Another truck was stuck in the dense, soft sand at Broadway beach. The Steger driver could not get past that truck so he turned right and drove closer to the shoreline where the sand is harder and easier to drive on.

The driver, who was speeding as he approached our beach, was not paying attention and, by inches, missed running directly into my family and another smaller group sitting close by. Our group included 10 adults and three toddlers. Several people shouted and waved at the driver but he never looked or stopped. He simply continued speeding until he reached the beach in front of Congress Hall, where he got out of the truck, removed his surfboard and entered the ocean where he surfed for a long time.

My daughter called the police and Officer Nicole Fox responded promptly and took the report but said there was nothing she could do about the man and truck on the beach, and that our only recourse was to file a complaint with the city. The police report number is 202406225 and would not be available to us for seven days.

Our group remained on the beach for about two more hours but the driver did not come back our way so we did not see him leave the beach. It’s possible he drove further along the beach and simply parked, or could have left the beach by way of another egress at the other end of town. Note that this is not the first time this particular Steger driver has entered the beach after hours, parked and surfed.

On Monday morning I spoke with Deputy Mayor Lorraine Baldwin. She advised that she would report this matter to the city manager that afternoon. It was not possible for me to attend the City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 18; however, another member of our group did attend and learned that several council members, as well as the chief of police, were already aware of the incident. Both the police captain and lifeguard captain commented that they had no jurisdiction over cars on the beach. Another commenter stated that Steger has a contract with the city, which permits their trucks to drive on the beach; no mention was made of the hours which those permits cover. Council members listened courteously to the gentleman who attended the meeting on our behalf and said “they would look into it” and suggested we could still file an official with the city.

It’s uncertain what “looking into the matter” involves and how much time it will take to do so. In the meantime, it is my belief that a serious accident or death is imminently possible while this matter is “being looked into.” This is a serious safety issue which should be promptly addressed by the current city council and legally remedied. My personal suggestion to City Council: Put the trucks back on the street where they belong!

IRENE REMER

Cape May

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