Search continues for missing swimmer

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OCEAN CITY — The search for a 14-year-old boy missing off the beach at Ninth Street continues this morning, Monday, June 30.

According to Tom Mullineaux, operations manager for the Ocean City Beach Patrol, beaches in the vicinity will be open throughout the day and fully staffed as the search continues, with help from the U.S. Coast Guard. Police and Ocean City Beach Patrol personnel are using jet skis and ATVs in the search, he said.

Mullineaux said the beach patrol's Rapid Response Team, located at the 12th Street headquarters, was summoned to rescue a group of about 14 people who were reportedly in distress in the water at the Ninth Street beach on Sunday, June 29 shortly before 7 p.m.

According to the city's official press release on the rescue, some of those who were helped out of the water had entered in an attempt to rescue a group of young swimmers, who had entered the water and were quickly caught in a rip current. 

"The lifeguards responded immediately," he said. A guard operating a jet ski pulled six or seven teens to shore on the first trip, and the rest on a second trip. "He went right back and grabbed more. About 14 people were brought in."

Apparently, one of the teens was not visible at this time.

According to Capt. Steve Costantino of the Ocean City Fire Department, firefighters were asked to assist with the water rescue.

“We got called down to the Ninth Street beach,” said Costantino. “Apparently from what we were told, a group of about a dozen kids were in the water and got caught up in a rip current. They were hanging on the rocks, hanging on the jetty.”

Members of the Ocean City Beach Patrol were on the scene when firefighters arrived, Costantino said.

“The lifeguards did the rescue but apparently one of the kids went under,” he said.

This, he said, was described to him by the lifeguards on the scene. He said he does not know if the missing swimmer went under before lifeguards were able to reach him.

“When we arrived, everyone who was rescued was out of the water,” he said. “Everyone got out of the water safely with the exception of the missing swimmer.”

Rescuers, he said, formed a human chain, locking arms as they navigated through the water to locate the swimmer.

“We searched a four block area,” he said, utilizing all of the equipment they had at their disposal, including dive operations and jet skis.

“When it got dark, we had to suspend operations,” he said.

Helicopters, ATVs and others were back on the search at first light. In the north end of Ocean City, a Coast Guard helicopter searched the waters close to the shore a little after dawn. 

A 25-foot response boat from the Ocean City small boat station and a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Atlantic City and the New Jesey State Marine Police also responded on Sunday envening. The Coast Guard indicated the boy is wearing white simming shorts. 

The area where he entered the water with his friends is considered exceptionally dangerous because of th rip currents. The beach patrol this summer has been discouraging bathers from entering the water there when guards are off duty, with numerous signs along the beach stating that the ocean is closed after hours. 

The OCBP started its extended-hours program on Friday, June 27. Under the plan, launched several years ago to help protect bathers after regular hours, lifeguards will be on duty at the 8th Street, 9th Street, and 12th Street beaches until 8 p.m. every Friday and Saturday night until Labor Day.  There will be an OCBP medic on duty at the 12th Street Beach Patrol Headquarters at 12th and the boardwalk.

On Sunday through Thursday evenings, the OCBP Rapid Response Team will be activated in the event of an emergency.

This team is stationed at 12th Street Beach Patrol Headquarters on the boardwalk and will be on call until 8 PM. Lifeguards are dispatched for water rescues as needed. Central Communications will alert the Rapid Response Team and inform them of any water rescues that are called in.

The Rapid Response team is designed to operate as a lifesaving unit after normal hours of the beach patrol.  The team will work with the extended hours crew to create full coverage throughout the week after normal operating hours of the Ocean City Beach Patrol, according to beach patrol officials. According to a press release by the OCBP, guards still urge caution for all swimmers, and want them to swim where a guard can see them.

“The Ocean City Beach Patrol strongly urges bathers to swim only at guarded beaches,” reads a statement from the OCBP.

Mullineaux said the Ninth Street beach area has been plagued with strong rip currents for as long as he can remember.

"The beach is closed when the lifeguards are not there, and there are big signs to that effect," he said. "We put big signs up and we put little signs up.

"At the end of the day, as the lifeguards prepare to leave, they call everyone out of the water," he said. "The lifeguards are very conscientious, they cleared the water.

"It's really a shame that this happened," he said.

"While we continue to search for the remaining victim, 14 people were rescued from the ocean," reads a statement released by the Beach Patrol a little after noon on Monday, June 30. "The Ocean City Fire and Beach Patrol have personnel in place to provide this type of response and rescue when needed. The beaches are closed to bathers after 5:30 p.m. on Sundays and the area is posted prohibiting swimming.

"Several years ago the beach patrol began staffing a Rapid Response team. This team is stationed from 12th street, which is a midpoint to the area. The team is on from 5 until 8 p.m. in the summer months to help people who chose to enter the water. This team has made countless rescues. We discourage people from swimming after hours and to only swim at guarded beaches," the statement continues. 

Officials say Ocean City Police were with the boy's family today. His name and hometown were not released. 


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