NORTH WILDWOOD – Lifeguards from the North Wildwood Beach Patrol rescued two swimmers and a good samaritan who tried to rescue them, Sept. 16, after bathers ignored warnings not to go into the ocean.
Rough surf was spawned by tropical storm activity that created rip current conditions. Shore towns had put out the word all week to stay out of the ocean. But, according to NWBP Chief Bill Ciavarelli, at least 40 people entered the water over the weekend and (only) two had to be rescued.
“Thank God,” he said.
Ciavarelli said even Philadelphia news stations put the word out for people to avoid the ocean due to the rough surf and potential rip currents created by Hurricane Lee, which affected much of the eastern seaboard.
Ciavarelli said two swimmers had to be rescued and assistance given to a good samaritan who came to their aid at the beach between 21st and 22nd Avenues. The NWBP, which does not have lifeguards on the stands this time of the year, has lifeguards on duty at the lifeguard headquarters and will respond to calls for help. Ciavarelli said the beach patrol, police, and fire department will respond to emergency calls.
He said lifeguards found three people in the water up to their necks, unable to touch bottom, and three lifeguards entered the water and were able to help all three out of the ocean.
“We responded within five minutes of the call,” Ciavarelli said.
The victims, who were all in their mid-20s, were initially treated by the NWBP EMT and then handed over to the fire department EMS crew.
Ciavarelli said generally the beach patrols on the coast have been telling people to stay out of the ocean, except for surfers. He said surfers are generally very experienced with the ocean and are tethered to a surfboard, which provides flotation. This summer there were two documented cases of surfers assisting swimmers off Upper Township beaches, as well as one fatal drowning of a person swimming at least a mile away from the nearest lifeguard stand.
Ciavarelli said North Wildwood will have a response team on duty throughout the Irish Festival Weekend when all guarding operations will end. He said, fortunately, a number of his lifeguards were in town last weekend and two of them responded to the call on Saturday.
Ciavarelli said the surf conditions were bad all weekend, subsiding somewhat on Sunday, but the surf was still dangerous on Monday. He said potential bathers should be aware of the red flags that indicate the presence of dangerous rip currents. Furthermore, they should always swim near a lifeguard. When there are no lifeguards, swimmers should stay out of the water.
Ciavarelli said North Wildwood is fortunate to have a community where people walk or sit near the beach and might spot a swimmer in distress. He said if that is the case, don’t hesitate to call 911.