With thousands of people enjoying the sand and ocean off Long Beach on Memorial Day, lifeguards faced a few close calls, with two incidents occurring on the same beach and another involving a surfer who suffered a seizure.
At about 6:15 p.m., an emergency response team was called to Long Beach Boulevard beach, where a woman and man who were in distress in the water. Paul Gillespie, chief of Long Beach lifeguards, said that the man, who he estimated was at least in his late 50s, was jogging along the shore noticed the woman in distress and entered the water to try to rescue her but got also caught up in the surf.
“She went in the water and the guy got her almost out of the water, but he became a victim along with her,” Gillespie said. “The lifeguards pulled the both of them in. They were both in bad shape when we brought them in.”
Gillespie said that the woman, who was in her early 20s, was intoxicated and was transported to Long Beach Medical Center along with her would-be rescuer.
Long Beach Boulevard beach was still relatively crowded at 6 p.m., after lifeguard shifts end for the day, Gillespie observed, and many people were on the boardwalk there waiting to get on the beach at the time, when people are no longer charged to get onto the beach.
At 8:20 p.m. at the same beach, the Long Beach Police Department was notified about a possible swimmer in distress. A police officer arrived at the scene and observed a male youth in distress in the water, according to Sgt. Eric Cregeen, the department’s public information officer.
“Police officer Fales used an inflatable rescue stick but the youth was unable to grab it,” Cregeen said. The officer entered the water and grabbed the victim. “The child was safely brought back to shore and was transported to South Nassau Communities Hospital [in Oceanside] for evaluation and treatment,” Cregeen added.
Gillespie noted that this rescue was at the exact same spot as the prior rescue. There is a large hole along the shore next to the jetty on that beach, he said, and the rip currents on Monday were stronger than usual, making the spot a more dangerous place to enter the water.
“If you go in the water near there and you just take step in there, you’re going to get sucked out,” he said. “It’s a very treacherous position there. We’ve lost a lot of people who have drowned at that jetty.”
Of rescues that occur after lifeguards are off duty at 6 p.m., Gillespie said that an emergency response team is on the beach but does not patrol looking for potential rescues. “We sit there and wait and if they’re are people in jeopardy, we go out and assist the people,” he said.
Before the two later-day rescues, at about 3 p.m., a woman was surfing at New York Avenue beach had an epileptic seizure and fell face down in the water. “Thank God the lifeguard spotted it right away,” Gillespie said. “They went in and pulled her out. She was not breathing when they got her in. They turned her on her side and she started heaving up water and then, thank God, she started breathing again.”
Her boyfriend was present and supplied her with her medication for her malady, Gillespie said, and she later told lifeguards that she suffered a seizure. The woman, who was in her later 20s, was transported to a local hospital and was listed in stable condition on Monday.
Lifeguards took hundreds of preventative actions throughout the holiday, including directing swimmers to move away from rip currents, and clearing paths when the trucks speed through during emergency call.
“We do a hundreds of preventative actions a day,” Gillespie said. “But it was otherwise a pretty smooth opening to the summer.”
Last summer, Long Beach lifeguards reported a beach season without any drownings.