Busy summer for Long Beach first responders

Lifeguards, firefighters and others rescue swimmers during heat wave


The large beach crowds have kept Long Beach lifeguards, firefighters and other emergency responders busy this summer — especially on days when the temperatures have reached 90 degrees or higher — with numerous water rescues.

Strong rip currents, meanwhile, temporarily closed beaches to swimmers for at least three days last week.

“It’s been a tough season with the rip currents,” said Fire Chief Joe Miller. “And a lot of people from out of town are going in [the water] while lifeguards aren’t on duty.”

On Tuesday, Long Beach lifeguards and firefighters rescued a man who went swimming after-hours at Laurelton Boulevard beach and became distressed near the jetty.

“A guy was in trouble off Laurelton — he was going down for his third and final time when [lifeguards] got to him and got him out,” Fire Commissioner Scott Kemins said. “He swallowed a lot of water, had some difficulty breathing, but the alternative could have been much worse.”

Kemins added that the man was taken to South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside.

On Aug. 3, lifeguards, firefighters and police responded to three after-hour water rescues at Neptune, Monroe and National boulevards involving about eight swimmers. In one incident, two children were in distress at Monroe Boulevard beach just before 8 p.m., but were safely removed from the water, according to the Long Beach Fire Department.

In another, two swimmers were struggling at National Boulevard beach at 6:30 p.m., and lifeguards entered the water as the swimmers began to be swept under the jetties.

“Lifeguards were able to reach them and brought them around the jetty where they were then removed safely from the water,” the Fire Department said on Facebook. “The swimmers refused medical attention and all operations were concluded within 15 minutes.”

“On Friday, in two of the three incidents, good Samaritans also had to be rescued because they went in to get the initial victim,” Kemins said.

On Sunday, Aug. 5, Kemins and Long Beach Lifeguards Chief Paul Gillespie said that Long Beach saw record crowds at the beach.

“We had about four [water rescues] over the weekend — it wasn’t too bad,” Gillespie told the Herald on Monday. “We’ve had a bunch of water rescues this summer, a lot during the day and about eight people were rescued last Friday after hours. The temperature is so ridiculous, so people are staying on the beach late. It was packed Sunday night … the third-largest crowd we’ve had down here, thousands of people.”

Kemins said that lifeguards, firefighters, police and other first responders have worked well together.

“Sunday was a crowded day on the beach,” Kemins said. “It’s been a steady and busy summer. But everybody has been working so well together — it’s like a well-oiled machine.”

Swimming is prohibited after 6 p.m., when lifeguards are no longer on duty. The recent spate of water rescues comes after two swimmers, 10-year-old Ramell McRae Jr. and 30-year-old Neil Gibbons, drowned in separate incidents in June. Both entered the water when swimming was prohibited.

Gillespie said that Long Beach has 160 lifeguards, and that an emergency team consisting of eight lifeguards and two rescue trucks is on call after hours.

“When you take a chance and go in when the lifeguards are not here, it’s not good,” Gillespie said. “It’s tough because we go around and tell people [to get out] and the specials have tried to get people out of the water, and police have been giving tickets. We do a lot preventive lifeguarding as well. This is the best group of lifeguards we’ve ever had — they do a great job.”