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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Monday, September 25, 2017

International News

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This summer 11 deaths were reported due to drowning on the Jersey Shore. Each year, rip currents are responsible for one to three New Jersey deaths, as per the National Weather Service. But in the past two months, they have already claimed five lives. “The only year with more rip-current deaths is 2008, when there were six deaths” the whole year, says meteorologist Sarah Johnson. In a recent article in the NY Post, experts searching for a culprit in the tragic trend have pointed to rougher surf and possibly beach replenishment projects.

“I walk the beaches all year long and I’ve noticed the beaches are shallower much further out because of the replenishment,” says Joe Bongiovanni, Asbury Park beach safety supervisor, and lifeguard for 50 years. “The replenishment is doing what it’s intended to do. However, it does create more rip currents — and people don’t recognize rip currents.”

Early on June 15, before lifeguards were on duty, two cousins, Mitzi Hernandez, 13, and Emily Gonzalez Perez, 12, were pulled under at Belmar Beach. Panic-stricken bystanders made a rescue but Hernandez died the next day and Gonzalez Perez four days later. In Atlantic City, on the same fated day, Ramon Quinn, 15, went in to save Kaliyah Hand from a rip current. Both drowned. It took several days to recover the bodies.

There were three more tragic drownings reported in July, and three as yet in August. “This is the worst summer I’ve ever seen,’’ said Amy Delmanto, of Old Bridge, NJ, who witnessed 12-year-old Bianca Palma drown on July 16 on a Sandy Hook beach. She says it was close to 6 PM and the lifeguards were closing up when they heard the scream and jumped in to help. That rescue was unsuccessful, but Delmanto said that she “witnessed three rescues” by the lifeguards there that same afternoon. She says the water was only as deep as Palma’s knees when she was pulled under by a rip current.

With the help of the federal government, NJ has spent hundreds of millions in beach replenishment and protection projects since the Storm Sandy in 2012. But most experts reject placing the blame on the replenishment projects. “Beachfill projects neither create nor worsen rip currents,” stated the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the projects. According to Dr. Stewart Farrell, director of Stockton University’s Coastal Research Center, the hazard is produced by continuous 3 to 4 foot waves, which are caused by “more wind energy in the North Atlantic than it has been in the past.”

Whatever the cause, swimmers are cautioned to follow the rules and swim only when life guards are present. Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty said the lifeguards have made “170 saves” since the beginning of the summer. “The mistake people make is the Atlantic Ocean is not a pool,” he said. “It can turn deadly very quickly if people aren’t careful.

By: Helen Zaboulani