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Dangerous riptides persist after series of Jersey Shore drownings, rescues

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(TOMS RIVER, N.J.) — A high-risk warning for dangerous riptides remained in effect Tuesday for the Jersey Shore after a series of drownings and rescues occurred at beaches over the Labor Day weekend, officials said.

The National Weather Service warning will stay in effect through Tuesday evening and swimmers are being advised to be alert for the dangerous rip currents being churned up by the remnants of hurricanes Franklin and Idalia, officials said.

Three swimmers died from drownings over the holiday weekend on the Jersey Shore and many others had to be rescued by lifeguards, officials said.

A 22-year-old man, identified as Edwin Antonio Made Sanchez of the Dominican Republic, died on Sunday at Beach Haven in Ocean County after being hit by a rough wave, officials said. His death occurred despite a team effort to save him by lifeguards and beachgoers who formed a human chain to pull him from the water. Two other swimmers at Beach Haven were rescued by lifeguards, officials said.

In Belmar, New Jersey, in Monmouth County, about 50 miles north of Beach Haven, five swimmers were rescued Sunday from the rough surf off Fifth Avenue Beach, officials said. One of those pulled from the water alive, a 24-year-old man whose name was not released, was later pronounced dead at a hospital, officials said.

A rip current, which flows out toward the ocean, can quickly pull a swimmer away from the shore. Rip currents usually reach a speed of 1 to 2 feet per second, but some can clock in at 8 feet per second, which is faster than an Olympic swimmer, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The best way to survive a rip current is to not panic or attempt to swim directly toward shore but rather swim parallel to shore or tread water until one is naturally pulled out of the rip current, according to the Red Cross.

Surfer Stephen Houser, a former U.S. Marine, sprang into action to rescue one man he saw struggling in the water off Long Beach Island in Ocean County on Sunday. Houser said he raced out on a boogie board to save Gabe McCabe. Houser videotaped the rescue and later posted it on YouTube.

McCabe told ABC New York station WABC that he felt helpless against the strong current, saying, “I kept being pulled down and down and down.”

“I’ve never experienced anything like this. It just sucked, zapped the energy right out of you,” McCabe said. “Steve definitely was the man of the moment for me.”

Houser said he has saved swimmers in the past, but described Sunday’s rip currents off Long Beach Island were especially strong.

“I’ve been in rip currents before, too,” Houser said. “It’s scary. Your first instinct is panic.”

Also on Sunday, six swimmers were rescued off Seaside Park in Ocean County when lifeguards spotted them struggling in the swift currents, officials said. A search continued Tuesday at Seaside Park for a 31-year-old swimmer believed to have been dragged out by a riptide, officials said.

The body of another 31-year-old swimmer, identified as Richard Boateng, who went missing in the water off Rehoboth Beach in Maryland around 5:45 p.m. on Sunday, was recovered on Monday when his remains washed up to shore in North Shores Beach, just north of Rehoboth Beach, according to a statement from the Rehoboth Beach Police Department.

Two other Labor Day weekend rescues occurred in Strathmere, in Cape May County, New Jersey, where a teenage girl and her father were rescued by lifeguards around noon on Sunday. Upper Township Beach Patrol Chief Bill Handley said the father and daughter were swimming in an area unprotected by lifeguards.

“It’s about a mile down from where our lifeguards were,” Handley said. “We ran a chain of getting guards into vehicles to get them on the scene.”

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