Dangerous Waters

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 Dear Editor:

I would like to comment on the unfortunate drowning of the two 13-year-olds. First, there are no sandbars in that area of the Bay. The underwater topography of that area, known as the North Channel, is very similar to that of Reynold's Channel, which abuts Far Rockaway from about Beach 30th Street eastward. As you may recall, drownings are common in the Reynold's Channel area. Both areas have strong tidal currents that flow through narrow passages, creating a steep drop-off of the bottom. In both areas, the bottom sinks gradually from the beach until it reaches the channel. At the edge of the channel, the bottom goes from four feet deep to 20+ feet deep in literally a few feet, meaning a swimmer in one or two steps will be in water way over his/her head, and the water (except at slack water) is moving very quickly.

Eddies and whirlpools form. Even for strong swimmers these areas are very dangerous.

Much of the shoreline of Jamaica Bay is not easily accessed by the public, whether it is off limits (like the shore around JFK) or just remote. The North Channel area west of the bridge is both accessible and open. It is common to see groups of people fishing and swimming there. Unfortunately, like these two 13-year-olds, they don't know just how dangerous the waters there are.

Peter Galvin, MD

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