2 Die in Multiple Drowning Incidents

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 Last Friday, June 17 saw high early-season  temperatures, that drew crowds to the beach and into unguarded waters. But that Friday beach day turned tragic. By the end of the day, a teenage girl and a young man lost their lives in drowning incidents.

The familiar sounds of sirens and helicopters filled the air on Friday evening, as FDNY, NYPD and other emergency responders bounced around the peninsula, responding to numerous water rescue calls. At 5:58 p.m., the first call was received, and responders made their way to Beach 108th Street. A 16-year-old girl was removed from the water and was transported by EMS to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital where she was pronounced deceased. That young woman was Diaka Kourouma of the Bronx, who had come to enjoy a day at the beach with friends.

Amid that rescue, another 911 call was placed at around 6:19 p.m. for a person in distress around Beach 100th Street. Emergency responders followed through and an unidentified male, believed to be 18-20 years old, was removed from the water at Beach 98th Street. EMS transported that victim to St. John’s, where he was pronounced deceased. As we go to press, that victim has not been named. According to NYPD, these two victims were not connected, and these were two separate incidents that happened to be in nearby locations. These deaths come just a week after two 13-year-old boys drowned in Jamaica Bay near the Joseph Addabbo Memorial Bridge.

The locations of the recent beach drownings happened to be in areas that are currently not open to swimming due to the ongoing jetty construction work. This means lifeguards were not assigned to these areas when these drowning incidents began. Additionally, the second call came in after 6 p.m., when lifeguards, if they were stationed there, would have already been off duty.

But these weren’t the only incidents. Shortly after those two, another call came in for a water rescue at the beginning of Riis Park, near Beach 149th Street. Fortunately, in this incident, the distressed swimmer was marked fine. But then shortly after that, another 911 call came in at 6:43 p.m. for Beach 87th Street. According to the FDNY, two people were removed from the water and were transported by EMS but are expected to be okay. Then just ten minutes later, FDNY responded to another incident right in the area, where another person was removed from the water at Beach 86th Street. This individual was transported by EMS but is expected to be okay.

In response to the drowning incidents, the NYC Parks Department emphasized the importance of only swimming where lifeguards are present. “We are heartbroken by these unfortunate deaths,” a Parks Department spokesperson told the RT. "We implore New Yorkers to only swim in open sections and when lifeguards are on duty." Parks says it has since taken additional actions to bring awareness of the risks to visitors. "We have added additional patrols and other measures to continue to educate beachgoers of the dangers of going into the water when a lifeguard is not on duty," the spokesperson said.

The city is currently facing a lifeguard shortage. While NYC needs about 1,400-1,500 lifeguards a season to sufficiently operate its more than 60 pools, most of which open for the season this weekend, and its 14 miles of beaches, according to Parks, only 561 have been hired so far. These numbers could grow as candidates have until July 4 to pass the lifeguard test to be rehired and training of new recruits will be complete, but the city has already cut certain programming like lap swim and learn to swim options at its pools in anticipation of the ongoing lifeguard shortage.

As jetty and dune construction continues in Rockaway, several beaches will continue to be closed for swimming and will not have lifeguards present. For the most up-to-date information on daily closures, see: www.nycgovparks.org/facility/beaches/beach-recovery/rockaway-beach-closures

 By Katie McFadden

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