The FDNY, NYPD, and the U.S. Coast Guard spent Tuesday night and much of today combing the waters off of Rockaway Beach, searching for two missing boys who went under the waves on Tuesday afternoon. According to the NY Times, authorities presume the teens — disappeared for nearly 24 hours at this point — drowned, and are now searching for their bodies. Still, relatives remained hopeful yesterday evening.
"We were drawn here to look for him, to see if he’s okay," Delsea Flowers said of her missing nephew, in an interview with the NY Daily News. “We want to see if he’s out there, if he’s hanging on to something."
Shortly after 3:30 p.m., surfers reportedly pulled a 15-year-old boy out of the water near Beach 96th Street. A group of his friends saw him struggling from the shore, heard his shouts for help, and asked others on the beach to intervene. "I was about to paddle out with my board and these two teenage boys came up to me and said, ‘Our friend is in trouble, our friend needs help,'" surfer Lalena Garcia, 42, told the News. "I said, ‘Where’s your friend?’ and they said, ‘He’s out there, he can’t swim.’"
When they'd pulled the teen to safety, he said the two friends he'd gone in with — both 16 years old according to the NYPD — were still in the water, setting off a sweeping search involving helicopters, divers, and police boats. The rescued teen was taken to St. John's Episcopal Hospital for treatment, but so far, his friends are still missing.
The FDNY tells Gothamist it is "no longer involved in a rescue or recovery effort from this incident." An NYPD spokesperson said their search for the swimmers is continuing.
There have been no lifeguards on the beach since September 8th, the official end of NYC beach season.
But just because the beaches are technically closed for swimming doesn't mean people aren't visiting them. Fall has been uncommonly hot so far, with highs in the 80s yesterday, and temps expected to rise to about 90 today. This second summer comes at the end of an especially sweaty season, which saw a high number of swimmer deaths in the Rockaways: As of early August, four people had drowned there within about a month, while one person drowned (and another nearly drowned) at Jacob Riis Beach in June. Many of these deaths occurred after lifeguards went off duty, prompting the Heart of Rockaway Civic Association to ask the city for extended supervised hours.
"This is a state of emergency,” Donovan Richards, the City Councilmember who represents the district, told the NY Times in August. “It’s hotter than normal, and a lot of our folks don’t have access to air conditioning. ...The only pool I have right now is the ocean."
In response to this Zombie Summer we're currently experiencing, Mayor Bill de Blasio has beefed up beach staffing. There won't be any lifeguards on duty at Rockaway during this hot flash, but there will be a heavier Parks Enforcement Patrol presence. An extra twelve officers have been dispatched to boardwalk and beach patrol, according to the mayor's office, and an FDNY harbor boat will be out on the water, along with additional NYPD search and rescue teams. On top of that, the city is sending an EMS Rapid Response Vehicle to the area, equipped for cold water rescues. Nonetheless, de Blasio urges you to ignore your swimming impulse: "We’re facing unusual heat for this time of year. In response, we are deploying extra patrols to ensure a swift response in case of emergency, but it’s critical that all New Yorkers put their safety first and stay out of the water at our beaches.”