NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The search for two missing teens in the waters off Rockaway Beach became a recovery effort on Wednesday.
A third boy was pulled from the water Tuesday and taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Mayor Bill de Blasio urged people to avoid the water as the unseasonably warm temperatures continued.
“We’re facing unusual heat for this time of year,” he said in a statement. “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.”
Despite the beautiful weather over the last two days, beach season is over and lifeguards are not on duty. Signs in the area warn: “Swim only when lifeguards are present.”
“No lifeguards after Labor Day and people still go out swimming,” Rockaway Beach resident Jorge Caraballo said. “As you can see, the surfers are out there. The waves are pretty dangerous.”
CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis asked a surfer, who went in the water at his own risk, if he recommends regular swimmers going in.
“Not in this kind of water, not when it’s this big of waves unless you’re an experienced surfer or swimmer in large waves,” the Rockaway Beach resident said. “I’ve been doing it for years and you have a surfboard and it’s kind of your lifeline when you go under water, fall on a wave. You come back up, you tread and then you grab your surfboard. You don’t have to totally rely on your swimming abilities.”
The surf was so rough Tuesday, even rescue crews had to pull back.
From helicopters in the sky, to boats and divers in the water, they searched high and low for the swimmers who disappeared around 3:30 p.m. off Beach 96th Street.
“It was chaotic,” one witness told CBS2.
Surfer Liz Winer said she had only been in the water for a couple minutes when she and her friend heard someone yelling for help and paddled over to him.
“I don’t think I’m ever going to forget the panic in his voice… He was scared for his life,” she said. “The waves are obviously really strong, so a couple times we could see, before we got to him, that he got hit with a couple waves and he went under for a second or two.”
The surfers caught up with the 15-year-old boy, who explained he couldn’t swim and was doing his best to stay afloat.
“We got to him, and he was able to hold on to the board and he was saying, ‘Where’s my friend? I’m looking for my friend,'” another surfer added.
“We didn’t see anybody else. We looked. We didn’t see anyone,” Winer added.
But the boy’s two friends, ages 15 and 16, were still out there.
“My cousin, he’s a really good kid. He’s only 16,” Ty Thompson told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan. “He went to save the other boy that he drowned with. I don’t even know why they went in the water. Those waves look really, really crazy. They look vicious.”
Amid scorching Wednesday temperatures, the FDNY, NYPD, and EMS units searched the water for the two teens who remained missing. City Department of Parks and Recreation police patrolled the shore with megaphones and whistles to keep swimmers out of the water.
There were six drownings at Rockaway Beach over the summer, including one on the bay side. All occurred with lifeguards off duty and many were caused by riptides.
“I’ve seen the riptides actually remove bathing suits off of people in the water,” said Edwin Williams of the Rockaway Civic Association. “Swim safety needs to be taught out here in Rockaway because we are surrounded by water.”