Capt. Butch Arbin of the Ocean City Beach Patrol said the boy “got pulled out with the rip current.” As rescuers were trying to reach him, Arbin said he “went underwater.” The three other people he was with got out okay.
The teen’s name has not been released. An autopsy to determine the exact cause of the death will be done by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, officials said.
Ryan Whittington, a spokesman for the Ocean City Fire Department, said the beach patrol “tried to rescue the swimmer, but he was swept underwater into the ocean in the rip current before they could reach him.”
Arbin said what made the tragedy unique is that it “happened so quickly” and while lifeguards were on duty.
“It’s unusual that a person goes that quickly underwater,” Arbin said. “Usually they’re struggling in a rip current and that sometimes keeps them above water.”
Authorities said they had more than 50 beach patrol lifeguards, along with fire department rescue swimmers, searching in the water immediately after the incident. The U.S. Coast Guard continued to look into the night and again Thursday morning with Maryland Natural Resources Police, officials said.
Lifeguards found the swimmer’s body just before 1 p.m. Thursday, floating in the water near 13th Street, Whittington said.
On average, Ocean City Beach Patrol responds to between 2,000 and 4,000 water rescues a year, most of which are related to rip currents, according to Arbin. This summer, Ocean City had two other drownings that happened when lifeguards were not on duty, he said.
Officials said the tragedy should serve as a warning to swimmers and beachgoers.
Whittington said swimmers should not go into the water unless a lifeguard is on duty, and for those who are not experienced swimmers, they should not go “past their knees” in the water. Another safety tip is to check with the lifeguard on duty at the beach and ask about the rip currents that day.