N. Wildwood drowning victim identified

July 1, 2009 2:50:39 PM PDT
A tragedy at the Jersey shore speaks to the dangers of swimming at unguarded beaches.A 27-year-old woman and a 15-year-old girl drowned in the waters off North Wildwood on Tuesday.

Chief Tony Cavalier of the North Wildwood Beach Patrol said, unlike rip currents that come and go along the ocean front, the inlet, where the ocean meets the bay, is always turbulent.

That's where tragedy struck.

"The waves are very big and the current just runs like a river, if it's coming in or going out. That's what happened to these people," Cavalier said.

It was in the water off First and Surf that Jamilah Watkins, 27, of South Carolina, drowned just before 6:00 p.m. Tuesday. It was less than an hour after life guards left the beach for the day.

A 15-year-old girl from Middletown, Connecticut also drowned. A third young girl was standing on the shore when rescuers arrived following two 911 calls.

Joseph Cuozzo saw rescuers giving CPR to one victim. He says there was an unidentified man, who Cuozzo believes was a relative, watching the awful scene unfold.

"They think that this gentlemen came to the shore with his family, and he's only going home with one of them. That's really sad, that's a tragedy," Cuozzo said.

Cavalier said tragedies like this underscore the importance of swimming only when lifeguards are present.

"That's why there's no drownings during the day on all the beaches because the lifeguard are there and they know what they're doing," Cavalier said.

Cavalier said four lifeguards returned to the scene Tuesday night to help in the recovery effort.

A stress manager was on-hand Wednesday to talk to lifeguards who helped recover the bodies. Cavalier said it was very upsetting to them and something they'll never forget.

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