BELMAR, N.J. (AP) — The search for two missing swimmers off Atlantic City was suspended by the Coast Guard on Friday, as a 12-year-old girl remained on life support following a separate swimming accident in Belmar that killed her cousin.
Both incidents on Thursday involved young swimmers entering the water after lifeguards had left for the day.
The Coast Guard said it suspended its search at 11 a.m. Friday for 15-year-old Ramon Quinn, of Pleasantville, and 16-year-old Kaliyah Hand of Atlantic City.
Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian said lifeguards had gone home for the day before the teens entered the water. Police said Quinn was trying to rescue Hand when both were pulled under by the strong current.
“We would like to extend our sympathies to the families and loved ones affected during this very difficult time,” said Capt. Benjamin Cooper, commander of the Coast Guard’s Delaware Bay sector.
In Belmar, a 13-year-old died and her 12-year-old cousin was on life-support after they were found floating face-down Thursday night, Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty said. The girls’ names were not immediately released. Both attended the town’s elementary school, where grief counselors were on hand Friday for the last day of classes.
In Belmar, lifeguards were to begin full-time staffing of the beaches Monday, once school let out for the summer and students were available to work as lifeguards, the mayor said. Several were on the beach Thursday, although they had left by the time the girls went into the water.
JeanMarie Ceravolo-Schulman, who lives in neighboring Wall Township, told nj.com she spotted one of the girls in the surf, pulled her out and tried unsuccessfully to revive her.
“I kept saying, ‘come on baby girl, come on baby girl,” she said. “It’s heart-wrenching.”
Doherty said the surviving girl, a fifth grader, remained on life support Friday.
“They’re just sweet girls who are willing to help other children,” Belmar schools Superintendent David R. Hallman said. “So it’s just a difficult time right now.”
It is rare for someone to drown on a beach protected by lifeguards. The majority of drowning deaths at the New Jersey shore occur after-hours or on unguarded beaches, where lifeguards are not present.
This story has been corrected to show Kaliyah Hand is 16, not 15.