Coast Guard suspends search for missing boater in Longport, NJ

Katherine Scott Image
Tuesday, July 22, 2014

LONGPORT, N.J. (WPVI) -- The Coast Guard has suspended its search for a boater who went missing after an accident near Longport, New Jersey

It was around 11:30 p.m. Sunday when 45-year-old Andrew Biddle and 23-year-old Justin Belz were riding in a pontoon boat along the 11th Avenue jetty.

Investigators say Biddle and Belz had passed under the Ocean City Bridge heading north when their boat hit a small buoy apparently causing both men to go overboard.

Neighbor Tom Murphy was among the first to get to Belz as he swam to shore.

"He was screaming, 'help, help, help.' And mostly, he was just absolutely, hysterically yelling his friend's name. I'm almost positive it was 'Andy' he was yelling," Murphy said.

Attention then focused on finding Biddle, an experienced and celebrated power boat racer from Egg Harbor Township.

Murphy and others called out into the dark.

"We were hoping he was knocked out on the boat, because there was no noise; he wasn't saying anything. My assumption is that he was unconscious in the water, but we couldn't see anything. The police got here quickly," Murphy said.

The search that began overnight and continues involves numerous vessels and a Coast Guard helicopter.

Biddle is listed as owner of a marina in Northfield. Staffers there told Action News they were too upset to talk about Biddle, a married father of two.

In the meantime, the search, allowing for currents, expanded to include the Atlantic waters off Ocean City.

Missing boater Andrew Biddle

Longport Mayor Nick Russo says the area where Biddle went missing last night is where the bay and the ocean meet. Russo says it is known for its shifting and powerful currents.

"I think the message here is that although the water provides enjoyment and pleasure and tranquility for all of us, we can never forget that it's extremely dangerous and you always have to use caution," Russo said.

State Police say they are planning to interview the survivor in hopes to shed more light on what exactly occurred Sunday night.