NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Two families were in mourning Wednesday after their loved ones drowned off a beach in Queens.
The couple was celebrating a friend’s birthday. Now, the victims’ relatives say their tragedy is a deadly lesson for others. They spoke exclusively to CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas.
Keylon Ramsay’s family walked out of Saint John’s Hospital in disbelief. Ramsay and his girlfriend, Umarie Chamble, died after drowning at Far Rockaway Beach on Tuesday evening.
“They loved each other. He’s my first son, the best son I could ask for. It hurts. It’s breaking my heart right now. There’s not much I can say. He was a fantastic kid,” Sheldon St. Hilaire said.
Police responded to 911 calls just before 10:30 p.m. When they arrived at Ninth Street and Seagirt Boulevard, the couple were unconscious in the water near the shoreline. First responders tried reviving them at the scene, but they were later pronounced dead at the hospital, Cline-Thomas reported.
“I spoke to him at 8:02 this afternoon and he told me he was at Rockaway Beach with his girlfriend,” St. Hilaire said. “Apparently they were celebrating one of his friend’s birthdays.”
Ramsay’s family is remembering him as someone who was full of joy and made everyone laugh. The 28-year-old was self employed.
Sharifa Martin said the 25-year-old Chamble was a home health aide and was also going to school.
“She was my little best friend. She was fun to be around. Silly, joking,” Martin said.
On Wednesday morning, the seemingly calm waters gave no indication of what happened. Tuesday night, after all, was supposed to be a celebration. Meanwhile, the victims’ families are trying to come to grips with their loss.
“In the Rockaways the rip tides are very high. It’s very dangerous,” said Ramsay’s cousin, Derek Parsons. “This is a kid that doesn’t like to go into the water. He doesn’t like to swim, but he was celebrating a friend’s birthday. They went out, had a good time, and things happen.”
Lifeguards at the beach are not on duty late into the evening. Ramsay’s family is hoping this tragedy serves as a warning to others.