NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There was heartache in Queens Thursday after a young man drowned on the first summery day of the season.
As CBS2’s Sonia Rincon reported, grief counselors were at Newtown High School in Elmhurst, Queens after Rudra Jung Gurung, who had just turned 19, died while swimming at a beach in the Rockaways.
Gurung’s grieving father, Rajesh, said the high school senior from Nepal – who had only been in the U.S. for a couple of years — wanted to join the Navy.
“And I said: ‘OK, go (join the) Navy, you know? Do something for the country, because the country accepted you,’” Rajesh Gurung said.
But on the hot summery spring day Wednesday, Rockaway Beach was tempting. And while Rudra Jung father worked a long day driving a livery cab and assumed the teen was at school, Rudra Jung disappeared in the water while swimming with two friends.
He stepped into the water at Beach 67th Street and was pulled out an hour later by rescue swimmers, CBS2’s Lou Young reported.
“His went down, bobbed up, bobbed down, bobbed up and then just disappeared,” said local resident Christine Croke.
Rudrajung vanished near the end of the jetty. NYPD and FDNY divers pulled him out of the water, and he was pronounced dead at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital late Wednesday afternoon.
“He was brought in approximately about an hour after being found underwater, and we tried everything that we could do to resuscitate him here,” said Dr. Joseph Zito, vice chairman of the emergency room at St. John’s Episcopal.
Zito said being at a hospital by the ocean means treating victims of water accidents — some tragic. He’d much rather see them prevented.
“Make sure that you are there when the lifeguards are there,” Zito said.
On Thursday, trucks were loading lifeguard chairs onto the beach. They will soon line Rockaway Beach with lifeguards in them.
But that will not happen until Saturday, and the lifeguards may not make it to that part of the beach right away.
City Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mitchell Silver said the department has all the lifeguards it needs for the summer, but beachgoers may not see them all until the end of June when the school year is over.
“As we get more lifeguards, we’re able to open more sections of the beach, which is why people need to pay attention,” Silver said. “Look for the lifeguards, look for the flags, listen to our Parks Enforcement Patrol.”
A section over from where the drowning happened, for instance, is a surfing beach — off limits for regular swimming. Certified surf instructors such as Mike Reinhart sometimes have to rescue people who shouldn’t be here.
“In all my years surfing here and teaching and being a beach lifeguard on these beaches, most drownings happen before lifeguard hours or after lifeguard hours, and by kids or adults who happen to have a few drinks in them, and then can’t handle the slightest of currents,” Reinhart said.
He said what happened on Wednesday was avoidable – and tragic, for a family and community.
“This is very sad — sad thing for any parents, you know?” Rajesh Gurung said. “No one can suffer like this.”
The Parks Department said in the past two years, there have been no drownings at the beaches while lifeguards were on duty.
Effective Saturday, lifeguards will be on duty at New York City beaches from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through the beach season. There are no lifeguards on the beaches prior to the season beginning.
Meanwhile in New Jersey on Wednesday, off-duty lifeguards rescued three swimmers in Seaside Heights. Police said a man got caught in a rip current Wednesday and was pulled about 300 yards off shore. A 12-year-old and 13-year-old were saved after they slipped off a sandbar.
Safety experts regularly remind people not to fight a rip tide if caught in one, but instead to swim parallel to break its grip and then get to shore.